Salt Lake City

Eight individuals, organizations receive awards for their impact on advancing human rights locally from Salt Lake City

December 4, 2023

Eight community members and organizations were recognized during Salt Lake City’s Human Rights Day Celebration on Saturday, ahead of the 75th anniversary of the U.N.’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The City’s Human Rights Commission solicited nominations from the public to honor individuals and organizations in Salt Lake City who have made a positive impact in advancing human rights. 

“We’re becoming a better City for all residents because of the important work individuals and partners are taking on to advance freedom, equality, and justice,” said Mayor Erin Mendenhall. “I am so thankful for their leadership, and commitment to positive transformation, that strengthens our communities.”

Emerging Leader for Human Rights Award

  • Gabriella Miranda, a senior at Rowland Hall, centers her advocacy work on reproductive justice, racial equality, gender equity, and accessible education. She contributes to several organizations and boards, including Youth Engaged 4 Change, the United Nations’ “Girl Up” Teen Advisory Board, and serves as a member of Planned Parenthood’s peer-led sex education council. She most recently represented Utah as one of the five National Student Poets for the Class of 2023. 
  • Nora Abu-Dan co-founded the Emerald Project, which is a local nonprofit advancing community dialogue to combat Islamophobia and uplift the Muslim community. She is a former reigning Miss United Nations USA winner and utilizes her platform for positive change and peace-building in the community.

Inspirational Advocate for Human Rights Award

  • Dr. Jay Jacobson is a Professor Emeritus of Internal Medicine, Infectious Diseases, and Medical Ethics and Humanities at the University of Utah School of Medicine. He is instrumental in convening the Community Partners Against Hate, a diverse coalition of leaders seeking to address incidents of hate and hate crimes that impact Utahns. His advocacy, in partnership with many community leaders, helped advance the state’s monumental hate crimes legislation in 2019.
  • Dr. Kathleen Christy ​​is a retired educator and community leader who served as a teacher, principal, assistant superintendent, and equity specialist with the Utah State Office of Education. Throughout her career, Dr. Christy sought to address educational inequity and disparities impacting underserved students. She has engaged educators in conversations about race, cultural competency, and inequity. She was an instrumental stakeholder in the creation and passage of state legislation to incorporate ethnic studies into the core standards for Utah public schools.
  • Samira Harnish is the Founder and Executive Director of Women of the World, an organization dedicated to advancing the human rights of women across the globe. Because of her leadership and commitment to advancing human rights, Samira has received several awards for her work, including America’s Region Nansen Award from the United Nations High Commission on Refugees and the 2019 American Red Cross Utah Hero for Global Citizenship.

Community Partner for Human Rights Award

  • The Catholic Community Services of Utah Immigration Team provides compassionate services to support those with the greatest need in our community, regardless of race, religion, or personal circumstance. The CCS Immigration Team advocates for migrants in Utah as they navigate the immigration process. The team of 13 individuals works to file over 1,000 applications with U.S. immigration every year. In the last two years, the CCS Immigration Team doubled in size to meet the needs of asylum seekers from Afghanistan, Ukraine, Venezuela, and other countries arriving to seek protection from persecution.

  • The University of Utah’s Dream Center was established in 2017 by a group of student leaders, faculty, and staff who saw a need for greater support for students who were undocumented on campus. The Dream Center works holistically with undocumented students and mixed-status families from college access to graduation. The Dream Center engages in specialized college outreach strategies, provides individualized advising, facilitates scholarship support for undocumented students, promotes campus-wide advocacy and trainings, and increases community-wide awareness of policies affecting current and future University of Utah undocumented students.
  • Women of the World empowers women refugees, asylum seekers, and immigrants from all nations—regardless of status—through customized services, community building, and economic empowerment. Women of the World has been on a mission to support women in their pursuit of independence and economic success. The organization builds community to support women and their families as they build a life in Utah.

“These awardees strive to create a better world by making it more fair and equitable for all,” said Jason Wessel, Salt Lake City Human Rights Commission Chair. “Our hope is that their example will inspire others in our communities to take up this worthwhile cause in advocacy for advancing human rights.”

The celebration on Saturday was hosted by the City’s Human Rights Commission, a nine-person commission, that focuses on eliminating discrimination in Salt Lake City to enhance the welfare of residents and the vitality of diverse neighborhoods and businesses. Residents interested in serving on the commission can apply online.

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