The annual Union County Human Relations Commission (UCHRC) Unity Achievement Awards honor individuals and organizations that have contributed in an extraordinary manner to promote respect for human rights, human dignity and cultural diversity throughout Union County. Among the 13 recipients of the 2012 awards were recent Kean grad Melissa Heron ’12 of Elizabeth, N.J., and Reverend Manuel Donelson of Linden, N.J., associate director for Kean’s Office of Undergraduate Admissions and member of Linden’s Masterpiece Program.
“I feel humbled and blessed to even be considered for this award. I believe in my heart that the work I do for youth everyday is just part of the reason I was born,” said Donelson, who was recognized by the clergy at Morning Star Community Christian Center where he serves as an ordained minister. “It is a gift to have compassion for others and I'm glad to be a vessel to be used by the creator to share my time, joy and unconditional love for all children.”
Donelson is also the president of the Mayor's Youth Commission in Linden. Under that program, he created the Masterpiece Program to get children off the streets. In 2011, he was named Linden’s Municipal Volunteer of the Year and recently received the 2012 Role Model Award from the Roselle, N.J., branch of the NAACP. His work in the community, Donelson said, is consistent with his work at Kean where he works with young adults and supervises student ambassadors.
Heron, who graduated from Kean in May with a bachelor’s in English and a minor in management science, said being included among the UCHRC awardees is “a very humbling honor.”
“This recognition is a testament to the unparalleled inspiration that I have received from the unwavering humanity of my grandparents, my daughter, my partner, my professors at Kean, my pastor and each humanitarian whose story I have been fortunate enough to share as chief docent for Kean’s Human Rights Institute (HRI) Gallery,” Heron said. “Every one of these people has played a role in cultivating my humanity and igniting my call to action. This award will serve as a reminder to continue the work I've started despite any obstacles that I may face.”
She vows to continue the mission of the HRI and UCHRC through service within and beyond Union County. “I hope to inspire others through my work and by telling the stories of everyday humanitarians whose stories are often left untold."
The HRI at Kean University broadens the university's longstanding efforts to increase awareness of human rights issues and violations worldwide and develops initiatives designed to help eradicate these atrocities and their root causes. The HRI is the university’s call to action – a response to our obligation to teach, educate and act in the face of inhumanity. For more information, please visit http://www.kean.edu/KU/Human-Rights-Institute.
The mission of the UCHRC is to actively encourage, develop, promote and strengthen respect for human rights and cultural diversity among the people of Union County. The 11th annual UCHRC awards presentation was held in the atrium of the Elizabethtown Gas Company in Union, on May 7. Additional information about the award recipients can be found on the Commission’s website at www.ucnj.org/uchrc.