1999-12-18 Lakeshore Press "Human Relations Commission presents Justice Award"

Human Relations Commission presents Justice Award
The Lakeshore Press

An elementary school and two non-profit organizations have been singled out for this year's Justice Awards, handed out by the city of Holland's Human Relation Commission.

During a City Council meeting Wednesday evening, Washington Elementary School, Community Action House, and the North Ottawa Ethnic Diversity Alliance were recognized for their efforts to build stronger communities by promoting racial unity and opportunity for all citizens.

Mayor Al MacGeehan described the organizations' works as threads woven together in a tapestry, creating a better quality of life for everyone.

"We are better for what you are doing each and every day," McGeehand said.

Gail Harrison, executive director of NOEDA, says the honor will add credibility to her organization's work to promote racial unity and understanding among young people.

"Because I have a great deal of respect for the Human Relations Commission, it adds to the importance of the award," Harrison said.

NOEDA received the Justice Aware in the category of community relations. The organization sponsors the twice-annual "Calling All Colors" conference, which brings together youths to lean how to bring down racial and ethnic barriers.

"We believe their positive involvement with our youth will bear fruit as they become our future leaders, and build a more inclusive community," said Al Serano, human relations coordinator, before the meeting.

Washington Elementary, located in Holland's historic district, was being honored for its work with children with the Justice Aware in education.

The award means a lot to the school, said Principal Nery Garcia, who came to the presentation along with most of the school's teachers and staff. Superintendent Marcia Bishop sat in the audience.

The school was singled our for creating an environment of multiculturalism through its make-up of staff and students.

One of the projects developed by the faculty is a collaboration with another school in a sister city Quertaro, Mexico. Students have learned about each other by writing via email. They not only share information about themselves but what they are learning in school, Garcia said. This year, both schools will be sending each other cultural boxes of artifacts. 

Community Action House received the Justice Award in the category of housing as it celebrates 30th anniversary. The Holland agency was honored for its efforts to stabilize families by helping them find safe and affordable housing. CAH has a program that takes people from homelessness or the bring of it, to owning a home. They provide care management, security deposits and down payment grants, said Leory Hernandez, executive director. The attention is appreciated, he said.