Skip to main content

UNM Honors Major Announced as 2017 Sarah Belle Brown Award Winner

UNM Honors College Major: Jesse Yelvington
(November 11, 2017)


Honors Major Jesse Yelvington was recently announced as the 2017 Sarah Belle Brown Student Award winner.  The Sarah Belle Brown Community Service Award recognizes Faculty, Staff and Students who serve as examples of social responsiveness and who have, over an extended period of time, donated considerable personal time and effort advancing the University of New Mexico’s public service mission. Jesse, while young and only an undergraduate student, already has a resume several pages long detailing his community service. This commitment to volunteerism and motivating the community started in earnest when he was in high school in the greater Espanola area and has continued throughout his undergraduate studies here in Albuquerque. Beginning in 2009, every summer Jesse has worked with the Santa Fe Mountain Center - Gender and Sexualities Alliance in Tesuque. There he develops curriculums and leads workshops and overnight camps for LGBTQ+ youth dealing with topics of oppression, gender, sexuality, race, class, safer sex, suicide prevention, mental and physical health, and more.

Since 2014, he has been very involved on campus. He has worked with the LGBTQ Resource Center at UNM to develop and carry out educational and social programming for students and staff, developed LGBTQ+ inclusive training plan for healthcare professionals on campus. He is also very involved with the UNM Queer Straight Alliance and the Lobo Slam (slam poetry) team. Through the Queer Straight Alliance, Jesse engages with local LGBTQ+ organizations, prepares volunteer opportunities for club members, plans and leads workshops and weekly meetings, and hosts annual QSA Drag Shows and Performance Festivals for over 1,000 attendees. For the Lobo Slam team, Jesse organizes biweekly slam competitions to prepare the presenters for national competition. In 2016-2017, Jesse created and ran an intensive service project at Desert Hills, a youth residential behavioral therapy facility.There he taught poetry to troubled youth as a means of self-expression and empowerment.

Jesse's goal through his community service is empowerment of members in the LGBTQ community and education for their allies. As Jesse would say, empowerment cannot happen in a vacuum. Empowerment comes about as the result of further both the individual and communal opportunities, goal, and actions. As a dedicated volunteer, he has been doing a phenomenal amount of work outside of class assignments, to enagage with the LGBTQ community and help individuals find or recognize their paths to empowerment. The people he has worked with say that he is passionate, attentive, and mindful. 

History of the Sarah Bell Brown Award

Serving New Mexico is central to the University’s mission. Everything we do at UNM – education, research, patient care, as well as public service- advances the interests of New Mexico. To support and promote the University’s commitment to public service, former Regent and Anderson School of Management Dean Doug Brown established this award in honor of his wife, Sarah Belle Brown.

Sarah Belle Brown has devoted considerable time to the community over the past thirty years. Her lifelong interest in helping children and her command of Spanish led her to specialize in teaching English to Spanish-speaking children in the Los Angeles School District. When she and her husband moved to San Francisco, she established a program in that school district focused on assisting newly immigrated Asian children to adapt to a new culture. While developing this program, she also served as a Court Appointed Special Advocate for children in foster care and as Board Chair for the Children’s Home Society, California’s largest social services agency. After relocating to New Mexico, Mrs. Brown continued her focus on children’s needs as a trustee of Mount Vernon College and joined the founding board of the charter school, Amy Biehl High School. She is a founding member of the United Way of Central New Mexico’s Alexis de Toqueville Society, co-founded the UNM President’s Club, and co-sponsored a professorship and several fellowships at the Anderson Schools of Management. In addition to her volunteer work and philanthropic activities, Sarah Belle Brown focuses a great deal of time on her family, a husband of 30 years and two grown sons.