2001-10-25 Lakeshore Press Woman's efforts to promote racial unity recognized

Woman's efforts to promote racial unity recognized
Lakeshore Press

Gail Harrison, founder and executive director of the Lakeshore Ethnic Diversity Alliance, was honored this week by the Michigan Counseling Association.

The 2,000-member of organization of counseling professionals presented Harrison with its “Diversity Award” for her efforts to promote racial unity. The award was given at its fall conference in Traverse City.

LEDA has sponsored many projects to build racial harmony, including the Ottawa Area Summit on Racism, fall and spring Calling All Colors Race Unity Conferences for middle school students and the Migrant Mentoring Program.

“The success of our work comes from the belief that everyone must be invited to the table if we are ever to succeed in healing racism,” Harrison said. “We, as individuals, as communities, and as a nation, must all join the effort to eradicate racism and promote diversity.”

Harrison was nominated for the award by Janice Beuschel, a counselor at Edgewood Elementary School in Fruitport, on behalf of the Shoreline Counselors Association.

Beuschel said she first saw Harrison’s deep commitment to healing racial divisions a decade ago, when they both were working for Child and Family Services of West Michigan.

Beuschel said she admired Harrison for organizing a cleansing vigil at the state Capitol following a Ku Klux Klan march, and event she knew of only because she subscribed to the Southern Poverty law Center’s newsletter.

“Gail is a person who walks the talk, and it comes straight from her heart,” Beauschel said. “I think that’s why everything she puts her hands on gels.”

While Harrison was heading up Higher Horizons –a Big Brother/Big Sister-type program in Holland – she helped members of two Hispanic communities in Ottawa County organized successful Cinco de Mayo festivals, Beuschel said.

The LEDA board is extremely proud of Harrison, president David Rhem said.

“This diversity award recognizes her tireless efforts to promote diversity and inclusion in all segments of the community,” Rhem said. “She is a catalyst for positive and meaningful changes in West Michigan. Her inspiration has mobilized countless persons to become active in addressing diversity issues.”

Harrison is the third recipient of the diversity award.

It is one of three awards given annually by the Michigan Counseling Association, which provides support and networking among the state’s counseling professionals.