Published on November 20, 2023 by Scarlet Thompson  
Lindy Cleveland

Lindy Cleveland ’14 is this year’s winner of the 2024 Council for Christian Colleges & Universities Young Alumni Award. The founder and executive director of Unless U, a non-profit that supports adults with developmental disabilities, will be presented the honor in January at a ceremony in Washington, D.C.

Inspired by her brother who has Down Syndrome, Cleveland founded Unless U during her senior year at Samford University to create a place where people with developmental disabilities could access a college-like experience, complete with academics, electives, community activities and more. In recent years, Unless U has expanded to include an ice cream shop where adults grow their vocational skills and an additional campus that provides small-group instruction.

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.

“Lindy is a shining reminder of what it means to use the gifts we have received to serve others,” said Shirley Hoogstra, president of the CCCU. “When she saw a need in the world, she promptly took action, applying all her knowledge, wisdom and compassion to build a new solution.”

Cleveland also was honored by Samford University during its Alumni Awards, earning the distinction of 2022 Humanitarian of the Year.

“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.” 

Cleveland, who graduated from Orlean Beeson School of Education with a Bachelor of Arts in family studies, is thankful for this new honor and says her career is a gift. 

“It is an 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,” said Cleveland.
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.