Today, the City of Tempe announced winners of the annual MLK Diversity Awards. This year’s winners include the creator of ASU’s Humanity 101 Movement, Tempe’s Challenge Day organizers, a welcoming church, a group that helps at-risk youth of all backgrounds and other outstanding community members.
The 19th Annual City of Tempe Human Relations Commission MLK Diversity Awards Breakfast will be held at 8:30 a.m. on Monday, Jan. 16, at The Tempe Marriott at the Buttes Resort, Kachina Ballroom, 2000 Westcourt Way, Tempe. The awards breakfast will honor community members and groups who have demonstrated a commitment to diversity in Tempe. Diversity is a core principle of the City of Tempe.
The breakfast and awards ceremony will feature keynote speaker Ahmad Daniels, Transformation Facilitator and Life Coach, and past Executive Director for CAIR Arizona. Attendance at the event is by RSVP only. The cost of the breakfast is $10. To RSVP, visit www.tempe.gov/mlk to print out an RSVP card, or call 480-350-8979 to secure your seat.
The following people/groups will be recognized at the Diversity Awards Breakfast:
Dr. Neal Lester – Individual Adult
Dr. Neal Lester is the Arizona State University Foundation Professor of English and is also the founding director of the Project Humanities initiative at ASU. Under the umbrella of Project Humanities, Dr. Lester created the Humanity 101 Movement, a toolbox of virtual and tangible strategies that provide diverse programming and activities focused around core principles of kindness, compassion, integrity, respect, empathy, forgiveness, and self-reflection. Workshops and sessions focus on sensitivity and bias training in the workplace, and offer organizations the opportunity to collaborate and focus on creating work environments built on mutual respect. Dr. Lester works tirelessly as a teacher, scholar, citizen, and servant leader committed to promoting and embodying the goals of Project Humanities and Humanity 101: to be more empathetic, more compassionate, more respectful, and kinder.
Jay Scherotter – Individual Adult
Jay Scherotter is a committed and engaged citizen of Tempe. A former member of Tempe Leadership, a leader and organizer of Tempe Youth Leadership activities, and a past commissioner on the Tempe Human Relations Commission, Jay is always finding new ways to give back to the Tempe community. Most recently, Jay spearheaded an initiative to bring Challenge Day, a social emotional workshop that helps break barriers down between youth in middle and high schools, to schools in Tempe. In the last two years, the result of Jay’s work has been thousands of students’ lives changed and hundreds of adult volunteers’ lives impacted. Establishing the Challenge Day workshops at Tempe schools took several years of commitment to come to fruition. Jay worked with Tempe City Council, the Tempe Police Department, Tempe school districts and the Tempe Diversity Office to first gain interest, then to implement the program. Since then, Challenge Day was piloted at Marcos and McClintock high schools in 2014, and returned to all seven schools in the Tempe Union High School District and one Tempe Middle School in January, 2016 and again in October, 2016.
Perla Jacquez – Individual Youth
Perla Jacquez attends Tempe High School where she is involved in the Stand and Serve Club, the varsity basketball and softball teams, and is first chair in the orchestra. Perla is also the president of the Tempe High Gay Straight Alliance (GSA), where she fights for the rights of all. Her ability to show respect, be courteous and treat others equally is what made her perfect candidate to be president for the GSA. Perla uses her wisdom to motivate the younger members of Stand and Serve to be active social change agents in their communities. She treats everyone the way they want to be treated and that is one of the characteristics that makes Perla so loved by all who meet her.
Eleanor McDevitt – Individual Youth
Eleanor McDevitt is a senior at Tempe High School where she is a member of the Stand and Serve Club, a violence prevention program that works with high school youth, families, neighborhoods, and communities to cultivate safety, equality, and respect. In this club, Elanor serves as a Peer Educator for middle school youth, giving them the tools they need to promote diversity within their schools. Elanor is a volunteer with Youth Ensemble Theatre, Inc. and is a member of Alta-Mira, the Gay-Straight Alliance, International Baccalaureate, and has been inducted into the National Society of High School Scholars. She has also received a varsity letter for her academic achievement. Her dedication and commitment to the well-being of others is apparent through her selfless immersion with individuals form a variety of different backgrounds.
Destiny Medina – Individual Youth
Destiny Medina is a senior at Marcos de Niza High School, where she is a member of the Stand and Serve Club, a community-based program committed to violence prevention and positive youth development. Destiny is a Peer Educator with Stand and Serve and is trained to empower and educate her peers on issues such as relationship violence, bullying, and depression. In this role, Destiny meets weekly with middle school students, serves as a mentor, and models ways in which to prevent future harm through positive actions. Destiny is part of countless activities throughout the year promoting diversity and respect. She has distributed Blessing Bags to the homeless, made community murals, is a member of Lutu’uria Guadalupe Youth group, participated in Take Back the Night event at ASU and has participated in the Unity Walk and Tempe Tardeada. Destiny is inclusive of all identities and is easily recognized as a caring, kind and giving person. She models respect and kindness for all.
Velena Leon – Individual Youth
Velena Leon is a senior at Tempe High School, where she is a member of the Stand and Serve Club. As part of the Stand and Serve Club, Velena serves as a Peer Educator and facilitates weekly violence prevention workshops after school for middle school youth. She is very much looked up to and admired by her younger peers. Additionally, she presents locally on Teen Dating Violence Prevention, participates in quarterly workshops for youth with traumatic brain injury, volunteers at service projects such as Stand & Serve Day at the Capitol, Tempe Tardeada, MLK Diversity Awards, Unity Walk, and helped paint a mural in the Ellertson-Wilson Street Community Garden. Velena is an active member of the Tempe High Gay-Straight Alliance, where she serves as Events Coordinator and helps plan events including the annual GSA Dance.
Challenge Day School Coordinators – Educational
The Challenge Day vision is that every child lives in a world where they feel safe, loved, and celebrated. The Challenge Day experience provides youth and their communities with a program that demonstrates the possibility of love and connection through the celebration of diversity, truth, and full self-expression. These 14 Challenge Day school coordinators planned every aspect of bringing the program to their schools– selecting the students, ensuring the facilities were ready, informing parents and guardians, working with faculty, community members and the City of Tempe to have the right number of adult volunteers ready, and setting the tone and conditions for an effective and fulfilling Challenge Day. By doing so, they have positively impacted nearly 2,000 students from the seven Tempe Union High Schools and almost 200 students at Gililland Middle School. The following school Principals, Vice Principals, Administrators, and Support Staff are receiving this award:
Jill Hanks, Tempe Union High School Administration Office
Dianne Welling, Tempe Union High School Administration Office
Mary Baker, Corona del Sol High School
Tomika Banks, Desert Vista High School
Jim Bell, Corona del Sol High School
Eric Cruz, Tempe High School
Joe Dominguez, Mountain Pointe High School
Brian Fleming, Marcos de Niza High School
JoLyn Gibbons, Gililland Middle School
Dana Lineberger, Compadre High School
Suzanne Pachuta, Tempe High School
Brooke Ramsey, McClintock High School
Molly Saddler, McClintock High School
Sarah Tolar, Marcos de Niza High School
The Challenge Day organization in Concord, CA has publicly said that Tempe, AZ is a Challenge Day model community. They have commented that no other community they know has created a partnership with city staff, school district, community leaders, police, fire, business leaders, city council, and parents than what they saw in Tempe. This says something about our City’s commitment to building and sustaining safe, inclusive, and supportive schools.
Dayspring United Methodist Church – Community Group/Organization
Dayspring United Methodist Church strives to be a church for all people and challenges itself to stay aware of areas of new concern for people’s dignitary and worth. While inclusion has been a tenant of Dayspring for more than 20 years, in 2016 alone they have added many new programs and services. During 2016, a five-week sermon series on “What Christians Can Learn from Other Religions” was given. The sermons focused on Judaism, Skihism, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Islam. Concurrently, a Wednesday evening class was offered with speakers from each of the religions and a Sunday morning series called “The Jesus Fatwah: Love Your Muslim Neighbor as Yourself” was presented. Another five-week class was offered in the spring, entitled “Who is my Neighbor?” The speakers included a person with undocumented immigration status, a transgender person, a veteran, a Muslim, and a person in long-term addiction recovery. Two years ago, Dayspring became part of the Reconciling Congregation Network, an organization working for full protection of people of all sexual orientations and gender identities. In 2016, Dayspring signed the Unity Pledge from One Community identifying itself as “Open for Worship” as a church supporting workplace equality and equal treatment in housing and public accommodations. In April, clergy and members of the congregation marched in the Pride Parade in Phoenix.
Hood 2 Hood Foundation – Community Group/Organization
Hood 2 Hood is an organization that seeks to teach and empower the youth of our community that hate is not the answer to the problems of society. Their Leadership Academy teaches youth to operate through the power of love and to take responsibility for their own lives. Through a partnership with the City of Tempe Police Gang Squad, Hood 2 Hood is able to identify youth who are in need of an opportunity to change their lives through positive reinforcement. Relationships are developed with the youth to teach and empower them. Another program offered by Hood 2 Hood is for men and women who have committed crimes but have successfully repaid their debt to society and are determined to be a law-abiding citizen. Their program pairs these men and women with mentors who walk them through the process of successful reentry.