Urban Heroes

Urban Heroes is the Urban Conservancy's annual celebration, highlighting individuals who have been instrumental in shaping our vision for a vibrant and resilient New Orleans.

Order your tickets for the Urban Heroes 2023 Luncheon!


We’ve been honoring our Urban Heroes since 2011


Photo of our 2019 Urban Heroes Honorees with Executive Director Dana Eness.
Chuck Morse, Dana Eness, Carol Bebelle, Paul Soniat, Leonetta Terrell, Leah Chase
Each year the Urban Conservancy honors individuals who represent our Core Values and who have been instrumental in shaping our vision for a vibrant and resilient New Orleans.

Our Urban Heroes Celebration highlights our progress as an organization and as a community to promote equitable access to our city’s and our region’s rich economic, environmental, and cultural assets.

What makes an Urban Hero?

Hero (n)- a person who, in the opinion of others, has special achievements, abilities, or personal qualities and is regarded as a role model or ideal

The Urban Conservancy is just one organization. We recognize that our work is only possible in collaboration with others. We need partnership with and inspiration from community members. People who, by doing what they do, move our mission forward; people who are great connectors between major city projects and efforts at the neighborhood level, and who are tangibly pushing toward our common goal of a New Orleans that is here for good. These are our Urban Heroes. Every year, the Urban Conservancy honors three New Orleanians that go above and beyond the average and do exceptional things for our city.

Look for our Urban Heroes’ bike racks around town!

You can find them in front of the Urban League, Circle Food Store, the Lafitte Greenway, Dooky Chase’s Restaurant, St. Peter Claver church, Del Fuego, Bywater Art Lofts, Finn McCools, Ms. Mae’s, City Hall, Nola Locavores/Saturn Printing, NORA, McDonough 35, Massey’s, Broadmoor Improvement Association, and Thrive New Orleans.

Interested in sponsoring our Urban Heroes celebration? Learn more.
Find a list of our past Urban Heroes on the Resources Tab.

Update 10

Aug 2023

Update 9

Jul 2023

Urban Heroes 2023 Awards Luncheon will be held Friday Oct. 6th, 11:30A-1:30P at the Walnut Room in the Lakefront Airport

We will be recognizing honorees for their role in creating a more vibrant and resilient New Orleans. 

Urban Heroes 2023 Honorees

Dinah Maygarden

Director, UNO Coastal Education Program; Pontchartrain Institute of Environmental Science

Karen Marshall

Director of Professional Development, STEM Library Lab; Science Curriculum Coordinator and Director of Field Experiences, Krewe of Red Beans; Assistant Marine Educator, LUMCON

Sage Michael Pellet

Climate Justice Organizer, Healthy Gulf



Date: Friday, October 6th
Time: 11:30AM – 1:30PM
Location: Walnut Room, Lakefront Airport
  6001 Stars and Stripes Blvd | New Orleans LA 70126

Honoree Bios

Dinah Maygarden

Dinah Maygarden is Research Associate and Director of Coastal Education Program at the Pontchartrain Institute for Environmental Sciences at the University of New Orleans. She received a B.Sc. from the University of Wales and a M.A., Science Teaching from the University of New Orleans.

Since 1997 she has worked at UNO implementing educational projects for K-12 and adult audiences in New Orleans to connect students to the coastal zone in which they live. Ms. Maygarden brings real world, relevant science problems to teachers and K-12 students, as well as adult learners. She hosts field-based workshops for these audiences at UNO’s Shea Penland Coastal Education and Research Facility (CERF) and elsewhere. Dinah develops partnerships with many community organizations to enhance the impact of and fund these programs.

While implementing NOAA BWET grants over recent years, Dinah has worked with teachers and students in several charter schools in New Orleans to develop place-based education (through NOAA’s Meaningful Watershed Educational Experiences model). This work has cemented close relationships with educators such as Karen Marshall and partners such as the Urban Conservancy.

Most recently she has focused on schools in New Orleans east, including Einstein Schools and Lake Forest Charter and has recently received funding from the National Academies of Science to continue this work for another two years, bringing new schools and community partners, such as the Urban Conservancy, Civic Studio, Sageville, and Song CDC together.

Karen Marshall

Karen Marshall has been teaching science for 18 years. As the State standards have begun to change to phenomenon-based learning with a focus on project and field based teaching, Ms. Marshall has been leading the lower school students (K-5) and teachers in this pursuit of collaborative change, while continuing to inspire her 8th grade scientists.

As of May 2022, Karen has transitioned to non-traditional education with a focus on inquiry-based learning in the field of environmental science. Her goal is to widen her sphere of influence and bring quality science programming, and exposure to environmental science careers to as many students and teachers in the New Orleans area as her time will allow.

In 2019, she received the District award from Shell and NSTA’s lab challenge and the Chairman award from American Petroleum Institute. Karen is also a board member of Ripple Effect and Feed the Second Line, community organizations that focus on the Youth and Culture of the City of New Orleans.

Karen serves on the Praise Team at her local Celebration Church. She served as a Judge at this year’s Aspen Challenge, presented by the Bezos Foundation. The Challenge encourages students of today to institute STEM skills to solve problems in climate change, community discourse, and environmental issues. Karen is a mentor to several young people in the community staying connected with former students that have chosen future careers in STEM.

Sage Michael Pellet

Sage Michael Pellet was born and raised in New Orleans. Since graduating from McMain in 1992 and attending SUNO, UNO and Robert Morris University, as well as Sidney N. Collier Votech, Sage has been a barber, mentor, and community advocate in many ways. From the cultural community to Criminal System reform, to advocating for the restoration of Lincoln Beach as cofounder of the nonprofit New Orleans for Lincoln Beach, his passion for and commitment to the community builds integrity and credibility as a community ally.

The combination of his education and experience in New Orleans has made him a recognized community leader advocating for improved quality of life and economic empowerment for the community. His latest position with Healthy Gulf as the New Orleans Climate Justice organizer expands his environmental justice work, inspiring and empowering community members in efforts to increase inclusiveness, equity, and decision-making in civic engagement. Sage is guided by these principles: “Let your light shine before men, do not hide your light under a bushel, God takes care of the bird in the tree, God will take care of me”; and a constant prayer: “Lord give us this day on Earth as it is in Heaven.” Sage is an outspoken voice, from appearing on church programs to being called to speak for the community, to bringing all walks of people together to improve the community of New Orleans which he loves.

Back to Urban Heroes

Update 8

Jun 2023

Save the Date: 2023 Urban Heroes

After a 3-year hiatus, we are thrilled to announce the return of our Urban Heroes luncheon on October 6th in the Walnut Room at the Lakefront Airport. Please join us as we recognize the contributions to New Orleans’ healthy ecosystem of three phenomenal individuals:


Update 7

Mar 2020

Urban Heroes 2020 Collage

The following press release was originally published on Biz New Orleans:

NEW ORLEANS  – The Urban Conservancy announced its 2020 Urban Hero honorees, five individuals who epitomize the Urban Conservancy’s core values and have been instrumental in shaping a vision for a vibrant and resilient New Orleans.

“Since 2001, the Urban Conservancy has been leading and collaborating to strengthen our urban environment and local economy through equitable practices, policies and programs,” says Dana Eness, Urban Conservancy’s executive director. “We draw inspiration from those who are contributing to a safer, healthier, and more beautiful New Orleans, and whose work intersects with our own in meaningful ways. We love having the opportunity to recognize the contributions of these special individuals.”

This year’s Urban Heroes are Joseph O. Evans III, principal/partner, Evans + Lighter Landscape Architecture; the Hon. Calvin Johnson, retired chief judge of Orleans Parish Criminal District Court; Phyllis Jordan, founder, PJ’s Coffee & Tea Company; Bivian “Sonny” Lee, III, founder and CEO, Son of a Saint; and Jenga Mwendo, director of Backyard Gardeners Network, former deputy director of Crescent City Community Land Trust.

Heroes will be recognized at a luncheon Friday, March 6  at the Walnut Room of the Lakefront Airport, 6001 Stars and Stripes Blvd.

Doors open at noon for a reception and cash bar; lunch will begin at 12:30 p.m.  The awards presentation will include a keynote address delivered by Peter Ricchiuti, A. B. Freeman School of Business professor of finance and host of NPR’s “Out to Lunch.”
Funds raised from Urban Heroes support Urban Conservancy’s programs: BASIN (Building Active Stewardship in New Orleans), FYI (Front Yard Initiative), and StayLocal.

The Urban Heroes Awards Luncheon is open to the public, but seating is limited. This event is made possible by the support of LCI Workers Compensation, QSM/Quality Sitework Materials, IBERIABANK, and WWNO.

Get more information about the event.

Update 6

Dec 2019

2020 Urban Heroes

We are thrilled to recognize the contributions of five individuals at our Urban Heroes awards luncheon on Friday, March 6th.

Joseph O. Evans III | The Honorable Calvin Johnson | Phyllis Jordan | Jenga Mwendo | Bivian “Sonny” Lee, III

Update 5

Oct 2019

It’s that time of year again! We’re now accepting Urban Hero 2020 nominations!

Every year, the Urban Conservancy honors three New Orleanians that go above and beyond and do exceptional things for our city. We believe an Urban Hero is someone who is tangibly pushing toward our common goal of a New Orleans that is here for good. Someone who presents themselves as a great model for how to build, connect, and nourish our communities. Fill out the form on this webpage to nominate your hero!

Deadline: Thursday, November 7

Update 4

Feb 2019

You can check out photos from our 2019 Urban Heroes celebration is this nola.com feature!

Update 3

Dec 2018

 2019 Honorees

We are thrilled to recognize the contributions of the following individuals at our Urban Heroes luncheon on February 15th. All five honorees will be recognized, and our 2019 Urban Hero will be announced at the luncheon.

Carol Bebelle | Chuck Morse | Leah Chase | Leonetta Terrell | Paul Soniat

Check back soon for details about our five honorees.

Buy Tickets Here!

Update 2

Oct 2018

Urban Heroes 2019 nominations are open! The deadline to nominate an Urban Hero is Thursday, November 15th.

Nominate someone here! 

Update 1

Nov 2016

On November 5, the Urban Conservancy recognized its Urban Heroes honorees at its annual celebration. Read more in the Mid-City Messenger.

2023 Tickets Available

Past Urban Heroes

Urban Heroes 2020

Joseph O. Evans IIIPrincipal/Partner, Evans + Lighter Landscape Architecture

The Honorable Calvin Johnsonretired Chief Judge of Orleans Parish Criminal District Court

Phyllis JordanFounder, PJ’s Coffee & Tea Company

Bivian “Sonny” Lee, IIIFounder and CEO, Son of a Saint

Jenga MwendoDirector of Backyard Gardeners Network, former Deputy Director of Crescent City Community Land Trust


Urban Heroes 2019

Hero, Chuck Morse, Executive Director, Thrive NOLA

Carol Bebelle,
Co Founder & Executive Director, Ashé Cultural Arts Center
Leah Chase,
Executive Chef, Dooky Chase’s Restaurant
Paul Soniat, Director, New Orleans Botanical Garden
Leonetta Terrell, 
Community Advocate, Friends of the Lafitte Greenway


Learn more about our honorees here.


Urban Heroes 2016

Andreanecia Morris, Executive Director, HousingNOLA
Keith Twitchell, President, Committee for a Better New Orleans
Leora Madden, Owner, Pearl Wine Co.

With Phyllis Cassidy, Founder of Good Work Network receiving an Above and Beyond Award.

Learn more about our Heroes here.


Urban Heroes 2015
Flozell Daniels, Jr., CEO & President, Foundation for Louisiana
Jay Nix, Owner, Parkway Bakery and Tavern
Prisca Weems, Stormwater Manager, City of New Orleans


Urban Heroes 2014
Dwayne Boudreaux of Circle Food Store
Bart Everson of Friends of Lafitte Corridor
Lee Stafford of New Orleans Eat Local Challenge.


Urban Heroes 2013
David Waggonner
Katrina Brees
Emelda Paul


Urban Heroes 2012

Massey’s Professional Outfitters
Broadmoor Improvement Association

Urban Heroes 2011

UC Cofounders: Ed Melendez, Geoff Coats
Bike-Ped Goddess: Jennifer Ruley


Urban Heroes