Terrell was one of four award recipients who were recognized at the March 14 event at Nanina's in the Park. Also receiving awards were former New Jersey Supreme Court Justice James Coleman Jr., actor Andre Braugher and the New Jersey Resources Corporation.
"Receiving this award is one of the most uplifting experiences in my career," Terrell said. "It is such an honor to be acknowledged for my work and dedication to educating youth. It is not only a humbling experience, but also validates my career choice of becoming an educator."
A lifelong resident of Newark, Terrell is a product of the Newark educational system. She graduated from Hawkins Street Elementary School and East Side High School. She received her bachelor's degree from Rutgers and a masters degree from Montclair State University.
Terrell said her own experience in college made her appreciate the work of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, which provides college scholarships to students attending public Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
"As a college bound student, I recall the roadblocks of securing financial support for my college education, " Terrell said. "Although I had the attitude and the aptitude, funding for my college education was an uphill battle. Unfortunately, this is the scenario faced by many college-bound African-American youth."
Terrell praised the work of the Fund in supporting students who aspire to continue their education in a public Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
Terrell spent her career in education in Newark, starting at her alma mater, Hawkins Street Elementary School, followed by 16 years as a seventh- and eighth-grade teacher at Burnet Street Elementary School.
In 1996, Ms. Terrell was appointed vice principal of Ann Street School, where she was a member of the administrative team that was recognized as Newark Public Schools' first National Blue Ribbon School of Excellence. In 1999, she was appointed to serve as principal of Harriet Tubman School.
Under her exemplary leadership, Harriet Tubman School was recognized as a 2007 National Blue Ribbon School of Excellence and also received the 2008 National Excellence in Urban Education Award.
Terrell was appointed to head Newark Public Schools by Gov. Chris Christie following the resignation of Clifford Janey. During her tenure of the state-run district, Terrell maintained stability district during a tumultuous transitional period.
After 32 years of successful service, Terrell retired from the Newark Public Schools and is currently employed by The North Ward Center as the educational coordinator.
Adrianne Davis, the executive director of The North Ward Center, said Terrell is deserving of the award.
"Deborah has devoted her life to educating children in Newark," Davis said. "We are glad that she is now part of our team."
Stephen N. Adubato, the founder of The North Ward Center said he is proud of Terrell for being recognized by the Thurgood Marshall College Fund.
"It's a big honor for Deborah to receive this award," said Adubato, who received the same award from the Thurgood Marshall College Fund in 2010. "Deborah is a remarkable educator who is unique in Newark. This award is a testament to that.”