The Saybrook Standout Award highlights students conducting outstanding research, community service, or work in their respective career field.   Saybrook Standout Recipinets will be highlighted at Saybrook Board of Trustees meetings. The recipient will have 10-15 minutes to present their accomplishment(s) to the Board and facilitate Q&A. The recipient will also be presented with an award and will be featured on the Saybrook Community Site and all university social media platforms. ​​

Nomination Process 

Each department chair will nominate student(s) who standout in the department.  The nomination will include a detailed summary of the student’s achievement(s), specifically focusing on how the student’s work embodies Saybrook’s mission and vision and how they are positively contributing to the body of knowledge, community, or career field.  

Saybrook standout award recipients​

​The Saybrook Standout Committee is pleased to announce Deja Jones​. 

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Deja L. Jones, M.Ed. is the Founder and Head of School at Honeypot Montessori, a nature-based Montessori school in Newark, NJ where she connects Black children to high-quality education and nature. Deja is a Doctoral Candidate in Saybrook University’s Transformative Social Change department and an Early Childhood Education Sociologist. She has worked in education and youth development within the city of Newark, New Jersey for approximately 10 years in the areas of case management, program coordination, program facilitation, curriculum design, and classroom teaching with organizations such as FoodCorps, Newark Public Schools, Sadie Nash Leadership Project, KIPP New Jersey, Boys & Girls Club of Newark, and Phillip’s Academy Charter School and Wildflower Foundation. Prior to working in education, she maintained a career in media as a digital content writer for companies such as  Madame Noire, Black Voices of the Huffington Post, Upscale Magazine, Saint Heron, Black Girl Magik, Shape Magazine, W Magazine,, Bauce Magazine, plus many more. It was through this experience in media that Deja realized the importance of sharing impactful stories. In 2017, Deja was nominated for an NJ 30 Under 30 Ubuntu Award in Community Wellness and Support for her work as the Founder of a women’s wellness group #YouOkSis, that tackled workplace oppression
for women of color. Deja holds a B.A. in Journalism & Media Studies from Rutgers University-Newark and an
M.Ed. in Teaching & Learning Leadership from Liberty University. Deja’s research concentrations are tackling the emerging effects of environmental racism in early childhood development, building resiliency in Black youth through environmental education, and increasing awareness around sustainability in urban communities like Newark. She is a member of the NYC Early Childhood Research Network where she has conducted research with Bank Street’s Straus Center for Young Children and Families investigating disparities in NYC preschool program ecologies, equitable referrals, and inclusive practices. She has spoken at conferences such as SXSW EDU in Austin, EdFest in Philadelphia, Nonprofit Professionals of Color Roundtable, Rutgers-Newark Urban Education conference, Natural Start Alliance Early Childhood conference, and was a keynote at a Rutgers-sponsored TEDTalk in 2019. In 2020, Deja was the recipient of the Butterfly Dreamz, Inc. Community Changemaker Award for her work as Founder and Director of Programming at Curate Your Life, which was a youth initiative that amplified the educational and mental health needs of Black teen girls through consistent programming and advocacy. During this time Deja was also appointed as a United States of Women Ambassador where she received a commendation from Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman for her work with teen girls. After leaving KIPP schools as a kindergarten teacher, Deja began traveling throughout New Jersey visiting teacher preparation programs and working with school districts to revamp their school disciplinary policies to further promote diversity, equity, and inclusion for Black students and dismantle zero-tolerance school policies that contributed to school pushout and the school to prison pipeline. This later led to an award in 2022 from the Abolitionist Teaching Network for abolitionist approaches to education. In 2021, Deja was the recipient of Saybrook University’s Rollo May Scholarship Award for her research that connected environmental wellness and the developmental process of children in early childhood. In 2022, Deja was the recipient of the Vela Education Entrepreneur Award for her work in education justice and equity as she laid the foundation for Honeypot Montessori in the city of Newark. Deja is an active member of the Natural Start Alliance where she has facilitated workshops around diversity in nature early childhood education. She is a member of the North American Association for Environmental Education and an active member of ForbesBlk young professional’s national network. Her dissertation study is entitled, “Sticks & Stones and Roots & Bones: A Narrative Inquiry Study on Black Children’s Engagement with Nature.” In this study, Deja worked with Black children participants to capture narratives about their experiences, interpretations, and aspirations in nature.

Congratulations, Deja!