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CCCU Announces 2024 Young Alumni Award Winner

CCCU Announces 2024 Young Alumni Award Winner

November 20, 2023

(WASHINGTON) — The Council for Christian Colleges & Universities today announced that Lindy Williamson Cleveland, a 2014 graduate of Samford University who is the founder and executive director of Unless U, has been named the 2024 CCCU Young Alumni Award winner. Unless U is a nonprofit that provides faith-based education and professional training to adults with developmental disabilities. The award will be presented on January 24, 2024, as part of the CCCU’s Presidents Conference in Washington, D.C.

Lindy Williamson Cleveland founded Unless U during her senior year at Samford University to create a place where adults with developmental disabilities could access a college-like experience, complete with academics, electives, community activities, fine arts programming, professional training and spiritual growth.

“Lindy is a shining reminder of what it means to use the gifts we have received to serve others (1 Peter 4:10-11),” said Shirley Hoogstra, president of the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities. “When she saw a need in the world, she promptly took action, applying all her knowledge, wisdom and compassion to build a new solution. Through her work with Unless U, Lindy has shared the love of Christ with hundreds of individuals in her community while creating real, meaningful change in people’s lives. She is an exemplar of Christian higher education, and we are proud to present her with this award.”

In recent years, Unless U expanded to include Unless U Scoops and Post Place. Unless U Scoops is an ice cream shop staffed by students, who develop vocational skills in a safe and supported work environment. Post Place is an Unless U campus that provides small-group instruction for students with multi abilities.

“Receiving the CCCU Young Alumni Award fills me with overwhelming gratitude,” Cleveland said. “Because we have chosen to walk alongside individuals with disabilities, we get the benefit of experiencing Christ’s power, kindness and love in a way that we would not have otherwise. It is our honor and privilege to serve these students and their families, and we give God all the glory for the creative and beautiful work He has done through our ministry.”

Cleveland graduated from Samford University in 2014 with a bachelor’s degree in human development and family science.

“Lindy Cleveland exemplifies the Samford mission by nurturing people of all abilities in their development of intellect, creativity, faith and personhood,” said Samford University President Beck A. Taylor. “She is changing lives daily, and impacting the way we all see and promote potential and inclusivity.”

The Young Alumni Award honors an individual who graduated from a CCCU member institution within the past decade and whose work demonstrates uncommon leadership or success that reflects the values of Christian higher education. Previous recipients include Angie Thomas (Belhaven University), author of the New York Times bestseller The Hate U Give; Wendy Gomez Matamoros (Dordt University), executive director of Nicaraguan-based nonprofit Tesoros de Dios, and Kelsi Deel Franco (Lee University), founder & executive director of The House of Cherith. Read more about these and other past winners here.

In addition to awarding Cleveland with the Young Alumni Award, the CCCU recognized two individuals as runners-up. Christelle Kwizera, a graduate of Oklahoma Christian University, was recognized for her work as founder and CEO of Water Access Rwanda, a nonprofit Kwizera launched in 2014, at the age of 20, to provide infrastructure for piping clean, purified water to public access points or directly into people’s homes in Rwanda. Water Access Rwanda now serves more than 90,000 users.

The CCCU recognized Bailey Wilson, a graduate of Azusa Pacific University, as another runner-up. Wilson launched Bondi Bowls, a company that began with a single food truck serving acai bowls. The company expanded to include 17 food trucks across eight states, a brick-and-mortar storefront and two kiosks in Oklahoma sporting venues. Bondi Bowls’ mission is to encourage God-honoring conversations while building community around healthy foods, and each Bondi Bowls food truck donates a portion of its profits to charity.

All media inquiries regarding the CCCU Young Alumni Award should be directed to


About the CCCU

The Council for Christian Colleges & Universities is a higher education association of more than 185 Christian institutions around the world. Since 1976, the CCCU has served as the leading national voice of Christian higher education. With campuses across the globe, including more than 150 in the U.S. and Canada and more than 30 from an additional 19 countries, CCCU institutions are accredited, comprehensive colleges and universities whose missions are Christ-centered and rooted in the historic Christian faith. Most also have curricula rooted in the arts and sciences. The CCCU’s mission is to advance the cause of Christ-centered higher education and to help our institutions transform lives by faithfully relating scholarship and service to biblical truth.

About Samford University

Samford is a leading Christian university offering undergraduate programs grounded in the liberal arts with an array of nationally recognized graduate and professional schools. Founded in 1841, Samford is the 87th-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. Samford enrolls 5,791 students from 49 states, Puerto Rico and 16 countries in its 10 academic schools: arts, arts and sciences, business, divinity, education, health professions, law, nursing, pharmacy and public health. Samford fields 17 athletic teams that compete in the tradition-rich Southern Conference and ranks 6th nationally for its Graduation Success Rate among all NCAA Division I schools.

About Unless U

Unless U transforms society’s view of adults with developmental disabilities by creating an inclusive environment that reflects Christ’s love, ensuring that every person is cherished, celebrated, and empowered as image-bearers of God. We foster the growth of our students academically, spiritually, physically, socially, and vocationally.