The Amherst Human Rights Commission is delighted to announce the recipients of the 2017 Human Rights Heroes awards. For the 13th straight year, the Commission asked community members to nominate Amherst-area youth who have demonstrated an ability to love and care for one another through acts of kindness, unselfishness, social courage and/or community service within their families, schools or community.
Based on these nominations, the Commission chose 11 individual winners and two group winners, and has also awarded special recognition to a group of adults.
“The recipients this year represent the various ways we support each other in our community—from recognition of our common rights to the celebration of our differences,” said Commission Chair Matthew Charity.
The individual winners include children and teenagers who, for example, have mentored a younger student; employed art and activism in promoting social and racial justice; volunteered for a U.N. Refugee Agency fundraiser; sensitively, kindly and gracefully taught fellow students about transgender, gender-fluid and non-binary people; and translated for Spanish-speaking relatives during two 911 calls.
The group awards recognize the Amherst Regional Middle School LGBT and Friends Café and the Amherst Regional High School Refugees in Distress Club.
“In giving out these awards,” Charity said, “the Commission gets to recognize those who might not be able to start a nonprofit, or effect change through Town Meeting or state legislatures, but whose work indicates a deep commitment to making our society more equitable, more sustainable, more loving, for us and for generations to come. It is our honor to stand with these students, and to share in the community that sees the good that they do now, and will, with our continued support, expand on in years to come.”
The special recognition award honors Amnesty International Group 128 (Amherst chapter), the Jones Library, Amherst Regional Middle School faculty and administration, and UMass teaching interns—all of whom have worked with ARMS classes since 2014 to create an annual Human Rights Day Exhibit.
The 2017 individual recipients are Crocker Farm 3rd grader Rubianny Fernandez Valerio; Wildwood 5th grader Anika Alschuler; Fort River 6th grader Kevin Fontanez; Amherst Regional Middle School 7th graders Anja Eriksen and Naomi Zeidenberg (recognized jointly) and Sylvie Hope; ARMS 8th grader Elias Smith; Pioneer Valley Performing Arts 10th grader Viseth Loeung Rinehart; and four of the newest Amherst Regional High School graduates, Nicholas Rivera, Lauren Phillips Jackson, Isaiah Meade and Regina Alkiewicz.
The Commission will present the awards at its annual Human Rights Heroes luncheon on Saturday, June 17, from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the Mill River Recreation Area. Attendees are asked to bring a potluck dish to share.