NEW YORK, April 6, 2011 - Kerry Kennedy, president of the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice & Human Rights, will receive on Thursday evening the New York State United Teachers' Albert Shanker Award for Distinguished Service - the union's most prestigious award recognizing special contributions made to public education in the United States.
Kennedy will be honored for her work in establishing the Speak Truth to Power human rights curriculum, which in conjunction with NYSUT, was introduced in schools throughout New York state in November. Through lesson plans developed by classroom teachers, the curriculum introduces students to human rights defenders from across the globe. Based on Kennedy's book of the same name, the Speak Truth to Power curriculum ultimately aims to encourage students to abandon the role of "bystander" and, instead, work to affect positive change in the world in which they live.
NYSUT previously partnered with the RFK Center for Justice and Human Rights and Kerry Kennedy to develop the Speak Up, Speak Out curriculum, providing students lessons and resources designed to instill the concept of social justice and the principles of a just society, which are the cornerstones of Robert F. Kennedy's legacy.
"Kerry Kennedy's contributions to public education are immeasurable," said NYSUT President Richard C. Iannuzzi. "Her work and commitment toward inspiring our students to speak up and speak out about human rights by fighting inequality and championing social justice will ensure the powerless are given a voice and an opportunity to improve their lives.
"In order to ensure a just society, there is no greater lesson our students could learn," Iannuzzi said, "and there is no one more deserving of this prestigious honor than Kerry Kennedy."
"NYSUT's leadership, members, actions, and most importantly, courage demonstrate a deep and abiding commitment to the protection of human rights and the empowerment of young people to create change," said Kerry Kennedy. "In spirit and in practice, NYSUT embodies Speak Truth to Power."
By receiving NYSUT's top honor, Kennedy follows in the footsteps of her aunt, the late Eunice Kennedy Shriver, who was awarded the Albert Shanker Award in 2003 for her lifelong work with the Special Olympics and increasing the opportunities available for children with disabilities.
Kennedy will be presented the Albert Shanker Award Thursday evening during NYSUT's annual Representative Assembly. She will deliver an address to the union following the award presentation.
The union's annual policymaking convention, attended by some 3,000 delegates, staff and guests, is being held Thursday through Saturday at the New York Hilton in midtown Manhattan at 1335 Avenue of the Americas. Albert Shanker, namesake of the union's highest honor, was a longtime labor leader of the American Federation of Teachers and a NYSUT co-founder.
NYSUT, the state's largest union, represents more than 600,000 teachers, school-related professionals, academic and professional faculty in higher education, professionals in education and health care and retirees. The union is affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers, National Education Association and the AFL-CIO.
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