Springfield-based Conscious Connect co-founder among international group recognized for improving urban areas

Karlos Marshall, co-founder and president of Springfield-based nonprofit organization The Conscious Connect, has been named a Next City Vanguard, one of 44 people from the U.S., Canada and India to receive the recognition. Contributed photo
Karlos Marshall, co-founder and president of Springfield-based nonprofit organization The Conscious Connect, has been named a Next City Vanguard, one of 44 people from the U.S., Canada and India to receive the recognition. Contributed photo

Credit: Handout

Credit: Handout

Conscious Connect co-founder earns Vanguard Award

By Brett Turner

A Springfield nonprofit organization has garnered accomplishments and recognition in the challenging year of 2020 and has just added another highlight.

Karlos Marshall, co-founder and president of The Conscious Connect, was named a Next City Vanguard. Next City is “a nonprofit news organization that believes journalists have the power to amplify solutions and help spread them from one city to the next city” according to the organization’s website.

Marshall, a Springfield High graduate, is one of 44 Vanguards chosen from the U.S., Canada and India from a variety of professions who are working to improve urban areas. The Conscious Connect works in Springfield to improve children’s literacy and redevelopment in the city’s south side neighborhoods.

Someone nominated Marshall for the award, which he wasn’t expecting.

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“It came as a surprise,” he said. “We’re thankful and honored to have even been considered. This can help raise our profile nationally and international, to collect partnerships and take an innovative, creative approach to things we do.”

Normally, the new Vanguard recipients would meet for training and to discuss ideas, but with the COVID-19 pandemic still in force, it prevents them from being able to do this until possibly next year.

Being a Vanguard means having access to an international network of fellow Vanguard recipients to share best practices and ideas to take back to their communities.

While Conscious Connect, which Marshall co-founded with fellow Wittenberg University graduate Moses Mbesha in 2016, is known mostly for its 65 literary stations with books scattered throughout the area and a new book club for high school students to study race issue, it has also expanded into other areas including neighborhood revitalization on Springfield’s south side.

One example is the Woodward Avenue Family Park, where benches and a basketball court were added, complemented by a floor mural in partnership with fellow city nonprofit, Project Jericho, this past summer.

Marshall said Conscious Connect is starting its next phase of the park by building a pavilion along with pavers, a concrete pad and fence, working with students from Cliff Park High School.

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He’s pleased people have responded positively to the organization’s efforts to improve the city and constantly looking out for new ways to help.

“We’re leveraging our best practices around and applying them to south Springfield,” said Marshall. “People have been impressed with the impact. This is a great place to learn, grow and live and we hope we are building young, energetic leaders.”

Marshall and Mbesha were also recently named Wittenberg’s Alumni of the Year.

The Conscious Connect is looking for volunteers to maintain its parks and properties. For more information, visit its web pages.

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