University of Idaho Scholar Receives Human Rights Award

Posted by on Friday, February 5, 2010 10:28 - 0 Comments

University of Idaho McNair Scholar Jorge Tapia-Ortiz and Dona Black have been awarded the Rosa Parks Human Rights Achievement Award. The Latah County Human Rights Task Force presented the awards during their annual breakfast in January.

jorgetapiaortz1Traditionally, the task force picks one student and one community member to honor, but this year the committee chose two students, citing outstanding work.

Mary Jo Hamilton, a member of the task force’s board of directors, said Black keeps literacy and creativity alive for both adults and children. She said Black especially works well with learning-disabled and disadvantaged children.

Hamilton said Black struggled in school when she was a child, which informs Black’s assistance – she said Black wants to help those who are at risk for going through the same learning struggles as she did. Black, who has bachelor’s degrees in interior design and interdisciplinary studies, is pursuing a master’s degree in elementary education curriculum and instruction.

Hamilton said Black gives children a safe learning environment to grow into individuals – “allowing children to have a voice,” she said. “(Black) develops their self-esteem to allow them to take charge of their own lives.”

Black said she doesn’t try for awards, saying it takes the spotlight off of the people she is trying to help.

“I feel if I deserve this, it should be shared with everyone who has ever leant me a hand, because they know what we do together is more important then what one person can do alone,” Black said. Black said her mentors have said the right path is its own reward, and that inequalities need to be challenged before they can be changed.

“I keep to my path and home through teaching to continue making ripples in whatever pond I’m placed in, and be the kind of leader my mentors can be proud of,” Black said.

Tapia-Ortiz is planning on graduating this spring with a bachelor’s degree in Spanish literature and Latin-American studies, along with a minor in history. Hamilton said it is quite amazing how many projects Tapia-Ortiz is involved in.

“He’s really a ball of fire, going in a lot of directions at once,” she said. One area Tapia-Ortiz promotes is the Dream Act, proposed legislation to allow certain undocumented immigrants a path to permanent residency. But he is not just focused on the Dream Act.

“I’m not limited to anything. I try to understand everything around me,” he said.

Tapia-Ortiz has been an intern for the Mexico Solidarity Network, and he’s also a member of the Idaho Community Action Network and the Student Chicano Movement of Aztlan. He has been a guest speaker at a variety of fair-trade conferences and workshops.

Like Black, Tapia-Ortiz said he isn’t too interested in awards, but finds educating people about the suppression of indigenous people and trying to promote cross-cultural understanding to be rewarding.

Written by Seth Edgerton, University of Idaho Argonaut February 01, 2010

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