Continuing its highly successful multiplatform public service campaign to address social injustices and bridge cultural divides, USA Network, along with its distribution partners, today announced the 2012 recipients of the Characters Unite Awards. Ten winners were selected from hundreds of nominees for their extraordinary efforts in combating prejudice and discrimination while increasing tolerance and acceptance in their communities.
"Congratulations to this year's Characters Unite Award winners who deserve to be recognized for their tireless work in fighting hate and discrimination and promoting acceptance in their communities," said Bridget Baker, President, NBCUniversal TV Networks Distribution. "Along with our distribution partners, we salute these winners on the incredible efforts they lead." This summer, each honoree will be acknowledged during a hometown award ceremony and will receive a $5,000 grant from USA Network and participating local MVPDs to support his/her project or related nonprofit organization. Additionally, honorees will be featured on-air in a PSA and online at charactersunite.com.
Nominations for the Characters Unite Awards were submitted by the public on charactersunite.com during Characters Unite Month in February, a time when the network leverages all its platforms to shine a special spotlight on the importance of combating hate and intolerance.
2012 Characters Unite Award Recipients:
Phillip Ambrose, Davenport, IA (Mediacom) Principal, Thurgood Marshall Learning Center Phillip Ambrose is a Principal at the Thurgood Marshall Learning Center, an alternative school serving the Rock Island/Milan School District in Illinois. Under the leadership of Principal Ambrose, the school pursues and engages in compelling projects to increase awareness of diversity, tolerance and respect through innovative cross-curricular activities. Most recently, with the school's Tuskegee Airmen Project, students studied how the Tuskegee Airmen, America's first squadron of African-American pilots, overcame prejudice to achieve their goal of fighting for their country. The next project the school plans to undertake is entitled Beyond the Dream; 50 years (1963-2013), which studies tolerance in America and the impact of significant events and people over the course of the last 50 years, from Dr. King's famous "I have a dream" speech to Barack Obama's presidency.
Wade Carpenter, Park City, UT (Comcast) Founder, Leaders for Life Chief of Police Wade Carpenter developed an anti-bullying campaign entitled Leaders for Life with his associate, Peter Iacavazzi, after a young man attempted suicide in response to incessant bullying. Leaders for Life, which has been introduced into several schools, serves to educate and enlighten young men and women, teach them to celebrate their differences, protect one another, and to embrace love and friendship. Chief Carpenter also teamed with the Utah Chiefs of Police Association, Utah Sheriffs Association and local State Legislators to establish a legislative house bill that prevents bullying and hazing in elementary and secondary schools; the bill was passed by the 2011 State of Utah General Session.
Gabrielle Ford, Fenton, MI (Charter) Disabilities and Anti-Bullying Advocate, Motivational Speaker and Author; Founder of Friends of Gabe & Izzy As a child, Gabrielle loved dance and dreamed of becoming a prima ballerina. That dream was shattered by a rare genetic neuromuscular disease, Friedreich's Ataxia, that would eventually place her in a wheelchair. Gabe not only struggled with the devastation of the illness, but also endured constant and cruel bullying from classmates. The constant torment took her on a path of depression and isolation. That all changed when Izzy, a long-eared coonhound pup, entered Gabe's life. Izzy became Gabe's best friend and constant companion. When this special friend mysteriously developed a condition mirroring Gabe's, Gabe re-entered the world to get Izzy the best treatment available. Speaking out for the voiceless Izzy gave her the courage to speak out for another voiceless group: the thousands of children bullied in American schools every day. Through countless personal trials, Gabe found her way back to the stage as an outspoken advocate against school bullying and has been encouraging and inspiring children all across the country by sharing her story during the last 11 years. www.gabeandizzy.com
Helen Greenspun, Longwood, FL (Bright House Networks) Holocaust Survivor, Speaker and Advocate Helen Greenspun has dedicated her life to teaching future generations about the atrocities of the Holocaust. Helen, born in Chmielnik, Poland in 1926, survived two labor camps and five concentration camps. She lost her parents and two youngest siblings in Treblinka and was reunited with her four other siblings who survived after the war. Instead of trying to forget the horror and suffering experienced, Helen decided to share her story and speaks frequently to local students, teachers and community organizations to raise awareness and to be a voice for those who did not survive. Helen also is on the board of the Holocaust Memorial Resource and Education Center of Florida, an organization dedicated to combating anti-Semitism, racism and prejudice with the ultimate goal of developing a moral and just community through its extensive outreach of educational and cultural programs.
Wanda Jacobsen, Monroe, NY (Cablevision) Founder, Kindness Above Malice Bullying has had a tragic effect on the Jacobsen family. In the course of one year, Wanda Jacobsen's 14-year-old son Kameron took his own life after being relentlessly bullied and then she lost her husband in the wake of that tragedy. Determined to help prevent other families enduring the same horrific nightmare, she has been a tireless and passionate advocate for bullying prevention measures in New York State and around the country. She co-founded the anti-bullying charitable organization, Kindness Above Malice, and continues to use her voice to help raise awareness of the importance of safe schools and communities. She also is the proud parent of Kevin, Jr., 24, and Kiersten, 21.