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Congratulations to the 2019 WEA Human and Civil Rights Awardees

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Every year WEA’s Human and Civil Rights Committee recognizes outstanding achievements and contributions in the areas of community partners, cultural awareness, international peace and understanding, and student involvement.

These awards are open to individuals, organizations or groups whose efforts have made a difference to communities within Washington.

Congratulations to this year’s winners and their investment in our students, schools and communities.

International Peace and Understanding: Vlada Knowlton Knowlton_HCR

Seattle-based filmmaker Vlada Knowlton turns the camera onto her own family for her deeply moving documentary, “The Most Dangerous Year,” a film that follows a group of families with transgender youth and their foray into the world of politics as transphobic “bathroom bills” swept the nation, including Washington state, in 2016. The documentary presents a portrait of families — along with state legislatures, the Snohomish School District, Snohomish Education Association and civil rights activists — who chose to stand up for the humanity and humane treatment of their children and who now want to educate others.

Harem_HCRElaine Akagi – Cultural Awareness: Kailey Harem

The day after the 2016 election, Harem organized fellow educators to hold signs and greet buses in the freezing cold that say, “This is your home. All students welcome,” because she knew the terror her students were feeling. Since then, she has been instrumental in igniting Sound Alliance (faith and labor partners), Federal Way Education Association and other partners in immigration justice. She has trained community members and 50-plus WEA members in “know your rights” trainings. She collaborated with the school district to train front office managers to know what to do if ICE shows up; spoken in public forums to advocate for immigration justice and share the stories of our students, families and educators, and has collaborated with groups to provide “rapid response” trainings to keep students and community members safe in deportation cases. At Thomas Jefferson High, Harem developed English B, a college-level English class for non-native speakers so that all students have access to college-level prep classes.

Community Partners: Stacie Collier Collier_HCR

Collier works tirelessly as a high school counselor in Spokane. In her limited spare time, she handknits blankets for the Welcome Blanket Project for relocated refugees. She is highly involved with World Relief and mentoring refugees. She raises money and collects items for Mardi Bra, a local organization that provides personal items for homeless women in Spokane. Last year, she jumped to action, rallying the local community and building political awareness when high-poverty schools faced inequitable budget cuts.

Student Involvement: Silas Berry Berry_HCR

Berry mentors students in Kitsap and Pierce counties headed in the school-to-prison pipeline. With his fraternity, Kappa Alpha Psi, and through F&A Masons, he provides scholarships for Pierce County youth and to Bremerton High School. He runs multiple after-school clubs, and is extremely involved in the union. Locally, he is on the Executive Committee and Budget and Finance Committee, and serves as building liaison and elementary grievance rep. At the Council level, he is on the Executive Committee. At the state level, he is a WEA Board Director, and has served three years on the Executive Committee. He has been a part of the Diversity Work Team, Human and Civil Rights Committee and the Health and Safety Committee. During his spare time, he speaks to Olympic College students to help recruit future educators of color.

Sells_HCRStudent Involvement: Grant Elementary Kindness Club

Club members, in grades fourth to sixth, commit random acts of kindness around Grant Elementary. Club members can choose from a variety of jobs such as reading buddies, morning greeters, recess monitors, art buddies, mentoring younger students, etc. The club, according to school Counselor Madeline Sells, who started the program to get more students of color involved and to provide more support for kindergarten through second-grade students, says “the club is about building a safer and more inclusive environment in our school.”

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