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Amherst, Pelham students to be honored with Human Rights Heroes awards



Thursday, June 04, 2015
AMHERST — An Amherst Regional High School senior who founded the school’s Black Lives Matter chapter and two Minority Student Achievement Network scholars who have been leaders in promoting social justice are among 11 individuals being honored with this year’s Human Rights Heroes awards.

The Amherst Human Rights Commission will present the awards — including the first ever for an entire class —during a community potluck picnic at the Mill River Recreation Area from noon to 2 p.m. June 14.

The picnic will also include an observance of Race Amity Day and the reading of a proclamation adopted at the annual Town Meeting. Earlier this month it passed a resolution to recognize the second Sunday in June as Race Amity Day.

Each award comes after nominations were made by teachers, students and community members to recognize youths who have demonstrated kindness, social courage and community service.

Four high school seniors, including Sajo Jefferson, are among the recipients. Jefferson led a walkout last fall in which 330 students marched to town center and held an afternoon dialogue at the Jones Library following the decision by a Ferguson, Missouri grand jury to acquit a white police officer in the fatal shooting of an unarmed black teenager. She also helped bring in guest speakers during the year to address issues of race.

Fellow seniors Larenz Harris and Shekenah Rocke, both Minority Student Achievement Network scholars, have mentored younger students and have been part of the People of Color United student group, which supports the annual Martin Luther King Jr. breakfast. Liam Brodigan, also a senior, served three years on the Human Rights Commission.

High school junior Noreen Swan is being honored for her work in mentoring younger students and doing community outreach.

Crocker Farm School sixth graders Khalila Lord-Arond and Yabanex Toro-Rodriguez, third grader Lauren Joy and second grader Kouta Ueki are all being recognized for showing empathy toward others and honoring diversity in the community.

Other individuals who will be honored with an award are Fort River School sixth-grader Seo-Ho Lee, a newcomer to Amherst, who scheduled a talk so her fellow students could learn about racism; and her classmate, Celia Malone, a member of the Student Council recognized for being considerate of the perspective of other students.

Receiving a class award are the 18 students in the fourth grade at Pelham Elementary School. A year ago, as third graders, they held a food drive to benefit the Amherst Survival Center.

Commission Chairman Greg Bascomb said in a statement that the recipients represent the best of the community.

“As much as any other factor, it is our youth who make Amherst, and surrounding communities, the best places to live and raise families,” Bascomb said.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.