published on May 10, 2022 - 11:22 AM
Written by The Business Journal Staff

A local man who started a movement that led to him winning one of the top awards for leadership in California is being honored this week.

Naindeep Singh was one of seven winners of the 2022 James Irvine Foundation Leadership Awards, meant to recognize “leaders whose innovative solutions to critical state challenges create opportunity and improve lives across the state.”

Singh is a founding member of the Fresno-based Jakara Movement, a youth leadership organization focused on the Punjabi Sikh population. Founded in 2000, the Jakara Movement educates Sikh youth about their heritage, explores challenges facing them such as gender equality and caste and prepares them to be leaders in their community, according to a news release.

Along with the prize comes a $250,000 grant from the James Irvine Foundation to support his efforts.

It was back in February when Singh was announced as a James Irvine Foundation Leadership Award winner. From humble roots as an all-volunteer organization for its first 10 years, the Jakara Movement now has a paid staff of 41 and has 70 registered high school clubs and 25 college chapters across 15 California counties. As executive director since 2009, Singh has overseen the Jakara Movement expand language access to voting material, contribute to high vaccination rates among underserved communities and secure protections for renters and agricultural workers.

Plans for the future include spreading the Jakara Movement model throughout California and into Arizona, Nevada and Washington as well as expanding affordable housing advocacy efforts and plans to establish some of the first community land trusts in the Central Valley.

In a social media post about the award, Singh invited people to help him celebrate the win by getting involved in the community.

“The recognition by the Irvine Foundation Leadership Awards is not about me as an individual but the tens of thousands of Jakara Movement members, attendees, participants, donors, well-wishers and community members past, present, and even future,” he wrote. “I stand on the shoulders of those that came before and am blessed to work/have worked with all-stars that are blazing new trails for future generations.”

All together, the James Irvine Foundation Leadership Awards contributed $1.5 million to Californians at six organizations in California addressing issues including civic engagement, crime, health care, wildfire prevention and more. A total of 419 people were nominated for the awards.

The other winners include Camila Chavez, co-founder and executive director of the Kern County-based Dolores Huerta Foundation; DeVone Boggan, founder and CEO Richmond-based Advance Peace; Dr. Noha Aboelata, founder of Oakland-based Roots Community Health Center; Serita Cox, co-founder of Truckee-based iFoster; and Brandon Smith and Royal Ramey, co-founders of The Forest and Fire Recruitment Program.

“This year’s Leadership Award recipients are an incredible group of leaders that represent the best of our state,” said California Governor Gavin Newsom. “These Californians show exceptional community leadership and innovation – exemplifying to all how we can solve some of our most pressing challenges.”

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