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Omaha teacher to receive NEA Human and Civil Rights award

WASHINGTON - June 23, 2011 -

Omaha English and special education teacher Ferial Pearson will be honored for her work to support gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) students during  the National Education Association’s (NEA)  annual Human and Civil Rights Awards dinner in Chicago, Friday, July 1, 2011. Pearson will receive NEA’s Virginia Uribe Award for Creative Leadership in Human Rights.   

“Ferial Pearson doesn’t just teach appreciation of diversity, she lives it,” said Dennis Van Roekel, NEA president. “She has changed the course of many young lives by her commitment to GLBT youth.”

Pearson knows first-hand the challenges of being young and feeling like an ‘outsider.’ She was born in Kenya to a Muslim family of Indian origin. 

She came to the United States at age 19 to study at Gustavus Adolphus College in Saint Peter, MN,  where she became interested in GLBT  issues after learning of the discomfort many youth experience when trying to acclimate  in the straight world.

Pearson started teaching at Omaha South High Magnet School in 2001 and sponsored the Gay-Straight Alliance. The program started with only five students. Today there are more than 150 gay and straight students participating in the program.

Dr. Virginia Uribe served as a teacher and counselor in the Los Angeles Unified School (LAUSD) district for 42 years. She became a leader in the movement to improve the lives of gay and lesbian youth. In 1984, she founded California’s Project 10, the first school-based dropout prevention program for students facing sexual orientation discrimination and harassment. Although retired since 1998, Uribe now serves as the executive director of Friends of Project 10 Inc., a nonprofit that raises money to support LGBT students.

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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 Dossett  (202) 822-7823,