Photo: Amanda Brown (Left to right: Casey Lamb, Lorrie Weaver, Cara Kennedy Cuomo, Maria Pilar Paradiso, Marci Mazza-Fredley)

Schools That Can and Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Announce 2019 RFK Urban Education Award Winners

Newark, NJ (May 3, 2019): A school leader, teacher, and student from across the country have been named winners of the 2019 Robert F. Kennedy Urban Education Awards, announced by Schools That Can (STC) in partnership with Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights on May 1, 2019.

The 2019 awards honor a school leader, teacher, and student who have demonstrated moral courage and commitment to bettering their communities. Finalists were nominated by peers and chosen as exemplars of the following quote by Robert F. Kennedy:

“Moral courage is a rarer commodity than bravery in battle or great intelligence. Yet it is the one essential, vital quality for those who seek to change a world which yields most painfully to change.”

The 2019 Awardees were announced during Schools That Can’s National Forum, which focused on Advancing Culturally-Relevant Real World Learning. Robert F. Kennedy’s granddaughter, Cara Kennedy Cuomo presented the awards after speaking passionately about the importance of education and its ability to serve as a great equalizer in our society. This year demonstrated the exceptional power of the STC community, with diverse nominations and extraordinary finalists.

In addition to the RFK Awards, Schools That Can presented the Leaders That Can Awards, which honor local businesses and leaders who have demonstrated exemplary service to the community. This year’s Leaders That Can Awards recognized Chancellor Nancy Cantor of Rutgers University-Newark, whose distinguished work and leadership in education have been a pillar of the community, and Prudential Financial, for their investment in the local community and closing the opportunity and skills gap, including through partner programs with Schools That Can Newark. Shané Harris, Vice President of Corporate Social Responsibility at Prudential and Executive Director of the Prudential Foundation, accepted the award on behalf of Prudential Financial. The Leaders That Can Award.

2019 RFK Urban Education Award Winners

Marci Mazza-Fredley, student winner: An 11th grader at City Charter High School in Pittsburgh, Marci is a passionate student activist. A voracious reader and writer, Marci is invested in examining questions of politics, power, democracy, and justice. She recently performed a spoken word poem about women’s rights at a local march.

Lorrie Weaver, teacher/faculty winner: With a career in special education spanning two decades, Lorrie is a veteran teacher at Foundation Academy. She’s committed to working with students facing significant challenges, and she approaches her work with passion and empathy. In her nomination, this anecdote stood out: “When one student with a severe behavioral disorder punched her, she began a practice of giving him 20 second hugs every class because it “takes 20 seconds for a hug to have healing properties.”

Maria Pilar Paradiso, school leader winner: As Head of School at Link Community Charter School in Newark, Maria has led the transition of Link from a privately-funded school to a public charter, which enabled powerful growth in order to better serve the community. Every year, Maria advocates to parents for their children to have life-changing experiences, such as an outdoor adventure education trip or the opportunity to attend an elite boarding school or day high school.

About Schools That Can

Since starting with a small cluster of schools in 2005, Schools That Can (STC) has grown into the country’s largest cross-sector network of urban schools serving low-income communities. The network currently reaches more than 200 schools serving more than 80,000 students. STC works with school leaders, teachers and students to reimagine education through real-world learning that closes the opportunity and skills gap. By connecting leaders to powerful practices and models, developing teachers and engaging students in innovative STEM learning, STC is poised to make an important difference in the lives of American youth.

About Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights

Led by human rights activist and lawyer Kerry Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights has advocated for a more just and peaceful world since 1968. We work alongside local activists to ensure lasting positive change in governments and corporations. Whether in the United States or abroad, our programs have pursued justice through strategic litigation on key human rights issues, educated millions of children in human rights advocacy and fostered a social good approach to business and investment.