NEW BRUNSWICK — “As long as women, minorities, and other underrepresented groups aren’t getting the healthcare they need, our work is still needed,” said Robin Vitale, senior director of government relations at the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association and the American Conference on Diversity Central Jersey Chapter 2013 Humanitarian Award recipient.
Vitale, a driving force for healthcare and disease prevention public policy within the region, was recognized on May 23 along with two other honorees – the Woodbridge Center (Corporate Citizen Award) and Rotary District 7510 (Community Service Award) — before a packed room at the Renaissance Woodbridge Hotel. Each outstanding individual or organization was honored for a commitment to the American Conference on Diversity mission — valuing diversity, educating leaders, and promoting respect.
“Our organization has a local touch with a global reach,” said Rotary District 7510 Governor Dwight Leeper, citing an example of nine Rotarians who recently traveled to Pakistan to help eradicate polio. “People thought that we were insane…but it’s our responsibility to share the message of diversity.”
The event, part of the American Conference on Diversity’s yearlong 65th anniversary celebration, drew local dignitaries including Senator Joseph F. Vitale, Assemblyman Craig J. Coughlin, and Highland Park Councilwoman Susan Welkovits.
Two Diversity Champions were also recognized for their service to Central Jersey communities. They include Lola Kamp, a dedicated leader who has significantly improved the quality of life for the underserved in Highland Park and elsewhere, and Avril Carter, senior personnel clerk for Woodbridge Township, who works to promote diversity and inclusion in the municipality’s HR processes and programs.
In addition, several local schools were recognized for their long-term participation in our Lead for Diversity program: Franklin High School (11 years), Gill St. Bernard’s School (6 years), Piscataway High School (9 years), and Spotswood High School (8 years). Lead for Diversity (LFD) is a yearlong initiative beginning with a summer residential retreat experience. The program brings teams of students from high schools across New Jersey together. Students create Action Plans specific to their school district, which they implement throughout the school year.
“My decision to attend Lead for Diversity was the best decision I have ever made! At first, I didn’t want to go. I went in with the worst possible attitude. But by the end of the week, I would have given anything to stay,” said John “Jack” Lowe, a delegate from Gill St. Bernard. “The biggest thing I learned from LFD is the ability to connect with people no matter who they are. They could be gay and I could be straight, they could be Muslim and I could be Christian — I learned that we can still be friends.”
Each year, the American Conference on Diversity Chapters’ Humanitarian Award events supports educational opportunities for more than 3,000 NJ students through our youth and collegiate programs. These initiatives engage middle, high school, and college students; focus on diversity awareness, anti-bullying, and social-justice issues; promote leadership, communication, and facilitation skills; enhance civic responsibility and character development; teach communication and facilitation skills; develop human relations skills.
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