Shaka Rawls’ impact as Leo High School’s principal has not been lost on his neighbors in the Auburn-Gresham community.

Education is one of the five “pillars” the Greater Auburn-Gresham Development Corp. cites as essential to building strong, vibrant, sustainable communities. Recognizing his role in the transformation of Leo High School, the GAGDC honored Mr. Rawls as a Pillar of Education at its annual awards banquet on Wednesday, Oct. 30, at the Fairmont Hotel downtown.

The world-renowned Leo Choir provided the entertainment for the event, the third outside-school appearance for the singers in as many weeks. 

Mr. Rawls has made community outreach an essential part of his mission at Leo and has committed the school to several service initiatives, including Leo Men Read, which sends juniors and seniors out to neighborhood elementary schools to read with the children and stress the importance of reading for enjoyment, as well as for education.

Ray Thompson, Director of Education and Youth Development for GADC, cited those activities  in introducing Mr. Rawls. He also spoke of the prominent role Mr. Rawls has played in solidifying Leo’s future through increased enrollment and a higher profile.

“It’s remarkable what a difference one person can make if it’s the right person,” Thompson said. 

Mr. Rawls thanked his parents, John and Andre Weatherby Rawls, for pointing him in the right direction and stressing education as he was growing up. He thanked his wife, Rukiya, and daughter Samira for allowing him to devote so much time to Leo, as well as the faculty and staff with whom he works on a daily basis.

He saved his most emotional remarks for his students, in the person of the Leo choir members who stayed around for the program after performing.  

“This is for you, gentlemen,” he said, holding his award aloft. “This is for Leo.”  

This was a great night for Leo.