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Young men from Wichita to receive NEA Human and Civil Rights Award

WASHINGTON - June 26, 2009 -

Nine young men from Wichita, Kan., are being honored with a Human and Civil Rights Award from the National Education Association at its annual Human and Civil Rights Awards Dinner in San Diego, Calif., on July 2, 2009.

The nine young men, all under the age of 20, created a fundraising relay team called Never Ignore, Never Forget to increase awareness and raise money to support efforts to stop genocide worldwide. NEA will honor their efforts with the presentation of the Association’s SuAnne Big Crow Memorial Award.

The genesis of Never Ignore, Never Forget began when the current team members were students at Wichita’s East High School. As part of the student Darfur Action Group, they played a major role in persuading the Kansas Legislature to pass a bill that would prevent the state from investing its public employees’ retirement funds in any company doing business in Sudan.

“It’s an honor for me to present an Association award to young people who are making a real difference in the world around them,” said NEA President Dennis Van Roekel.  “It is especially touching to know that their good works today are an extension of the good works they were encouraged to attempt while students at a public school. They honor their community, their school, and their former teachers by their continued commitment to peace and social justice.”

Teammate Aaron Gurley summed up his co-runners’ view of the need for continued action when he said before the relay, “The mission isn’t over until the atrocities aren’t occurring anymore.”

After training extensively throughout the spring of 2008 to prepare for the physical stresses of their endeavor, the nine-member team—Nathan Alexander, Aaron Gurley, Michael Gurley, Matthew Heck, Adam Heil, Jacob Heil, Adrian Love, Chris Parker, and Keit Tran—ran for a cumulative total of almost 110 miles a day, from East High School in Wichita, Kan., to Washington, D.C. 

The team ran in relay format, one after the other, under the supervision of East High School teacher and cross-country coach Darham Rogers. Along the way, they raised awareness of the atrocities occurring in Darfur and collected more than $25,000 for the Genocide Intervention Network (GIN). A highlight of their journey was attending a meeting of the Central Darfur Solidarity Network in Columbus, Ohio, during which they were able to hear the stories of three refugees who recently arrived in the U.S. from Darfur.

After 1,300 miles and 13 days, the team reached Washington, D.C., where they were welcomed by members of GIN and Refugees International.

SuAnne Big Crow (1974–1992) was an American Indian student from Pine Ridge, S.D. An outstanding athlete, student leader and role model, she spent her school years working to give her peers on the reservation a greater sense of self-worth and dignity. She died in a car accident at the age of 17.

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The National Education Association is the nation’s largest professional organization, representing
3.2 million elementary and secondary teachers, higher education faculty, education support professionals, school administrators, retired educators and students preparing to become teachers.

CONTACT: Dana Fisher
(202) 262-6769,