Benedictine Academy Campus Minister Earns Nationwide Recognition

Linda Michalski (Photo by: Heidi Gutman/USA Network)

Linda Michalski (Photo by: Heidi Gutman/USA Network)

ELIZABETH–As part of its award-winning “Characters Unite” public service campaign to address social injustices and bridge cultural divides, USA Network, along with its distributors, has announced the 2013 recipients of the “Characters Unite” Awards. Linda Michalski, Campus Minister at Benedictine Academy in Elizabeth, is one of ten winners selected from hundreds of nominees “for their extraordinary efforts in combating hate, intolerance and discrimination worldwide, and making significant contributions to champion civil and human rights in their communities”.

“Congratulations to this year’s ‘Characters Unite’ Award winners who, in the face of adversity, have worked tirelessly to fight hate and discrimination while promoting acceptance in their communities,” said Mac Budill, President, NBC Universal TV Networks Distribution. “Along with our distributors, we’re proud to recognize these leaders for their remarkable efforts,” he added.

“We applaud these ten incredible role models for the tremendous contributions they have made in their communities,” said Toby Graff, Senior Vice President, Public Affairs, USA Network. “They truly embody the ‘Characters Unite’ mission with their dedication to combating discrimination and promoting greater acceptance. With these grants and recognition, we are proud to help each honoree expand their important efforts,” Graff stated.

Each honoree will be acknowledged during a hometown award ceremony in the fall and will receive a $5,000 grant from USA Network and participating local distributors to support his/her project or related nonprofit organization. Additionally, honorees will be featured on-air in a Public Service Announcement, online at and via a social media promotion campaign.

Nominations for the “Characters Unite” Awards were submitted by the public on during “Characters Unite” Month in February, a time when the network shines a special spotlight on the importance of combating hate and intolerance. USA Network unveiled the ten recipients of its 2013 Characters Unite Awards in June.

Michalski, a resident of Chatham, was nominated by Cablevision Systems. A teacher and Campus Minister at Benedictine Academy, the all-femaile Catholic college-preparatory high school in Elizabeth, she “has motivated her student leadership team, the Benedictine Cor Defenders, to become a voice for the voiceless and confront evil with the power of good”, the “Characters Unite” Award nomination stated.

“As Staff Mentor, Linda teaches students how to take on the issue of human trafficking, a form of modern day slavery impacting young women around the world. Benedictine Academy became the first Freedom Partner School with Frederick Douglass Family Initiatives to abolish human trafficking through the power of education, and the student team has worked tirelessly to raise awareness through the media, Youth Leadership Conferences as well as before the House Senate in Trenton.

With Linda’s help, Benedictine Academy has been awarded the National Jefferson Gold Medal for Volunteer Public Service for three consecutive years and most recently, her “Students in Action” Leadership team worked with nine other schools across the nation to write and deliver a New Proclamation of Freedom in Washington, D.C. Along the journey, Linda has successfully instilled in her students life-long moral values and the belief that they share a responsibility to actively protect the rights and dignity of every human being.”

When asked about her relentless dedication to her students and the quest to teach them personal responsibility to care for others, Michalski replied: “My daughter, Allison, recently graduated from Vermont Law School. Once again, she shared with me the poignant story about the environment and humankind; a story that she had shared when she first entered law school. It is the story of The Lorax by Dr. Seuss. The Lorax, similar to our Creator, is the Guardian of the Universe. We are told, ‘UNLESS someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.’ At Benedictine Academy, we care an awful lot. ”

In addition to Michalski, the 2013 “Characters Unite” Award Recipients and their sponsors (in parentheses) are: George Garcia, Clearwater, Fla., executive director, Suncoast-High Point YMCA (Bright House Networks); Linda Hooper, Whitwell, Tenn., public speaker and former principal, Whitwell Middle School (Charter); Steve Bandura, Philadelphia, Pa. (pictured), coach and recreation leader, Philadelphia Department of Parks & Recreation, and director, Philadelphia Youth Organization (Comcast); Carrie Severson, Scottsdale, Ariz., CEO, founder and leader, Severson Sisters (Cox); Jamie Boersma, Des Moines, Iowa, CEO, Girl Scouts of Greater Iowa (Mediacom); Eric I. Lu, Los Angeles, Calif., founder, The Jubilee Project (Time Warner Cable); Leslie DeDora, Granite Bay, Calif., founder, executive director and program director, A Touch of Understanding; Patrick Burke, Boston, Mass., co-founder, You Can Play Project; and Petty Hunter, Abilene, Texas, president, Abilene Chapter, NAACP, and executive director, Neighborhoods in Progress (Suddenlink).

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