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Three win Diversity Champion Awards

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Christian Bello Escobar, Dr. Lauren Johnson and Dr. Cyndee Perdue Moore won UNG's 2019 Diversity Champion Awards.

One faculty member and two staff members earned the 2019 Diversity Champion Awards for their efforts to build a more inclusive community at the University of North Georgia (UNG). The award winners were Christian Bello Escobar, Dr. Lauren Johnson and Dr. Cyndee Perdue Moore.

"The recipients of this year's Diversity Champion Awards are motivated in building our students' capacity to succeed," said Dr. Pablo Mendoza, director of diversity and inclusion at UNG. "One recipient is empowering our first-generation college students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds. Another recipient is working to ensure our first-generation college students from migrant backgrounds develop skill sets to succeed in our American educational systems. And another recipient is supporting the development of cross-culturally competent teachers to meet the needs of our demographically diverse region."

Christian Bello Escobar

Bello Escobar is director of UNG's Migrant Programs and Services, which includes the College Assistance Migrant Program (CAMP) and High School Equivalency Program (HEP). CAMP students are dependents of migrant workers, who come from a wide variety of races and ethnicities. UNG is one of only three schools in the state with CAMP.

"Christian is an advocate for these students who would not have the opportunity to attend UNG without CAMP," Carol J. Adams, associate vice president and dean of University College, wrote in her nomination of Bello Escobar.

Bello Escobar was also part of UNG's first Spanish-speaking orientation this summer, where he provided translation for parents. His work with HEP helps students prepare for the GED exam.

Dr. Lauren Johnson

Johnson, associate professor of teacher education, was the faculty honoree for her efforts to prepare minority teachers for the Hall County and Gainesville City school systems.

Johnson partnered with Dr. Sheri Hardee, dean of the College of Education, to recruit teacher education students for the Realizing Inspiring and Successful Educators (RISE) partnership with Hall County Schools. The school district pays for the cohorts of Hispanic students to study in UNG's program before receiving a teaching position in the school system. Students also work as paraprofessionals in the kindergarten through 12th-grade schools while enrolled at UNG.

RISE's first graduate is Melissa Silva. She studied abroad in Spain on a Gilman scholarship this summer and will spend a year as an English Teaching Assistant in Kyrgyz Republic through the Fulbright U.S. Student Program.

Building on the success of RISE, Johnson and Hardee implemented a similar program with the Gainesville City School System. The Aspiring Teachers Program (ATP) seeks out and trains diverse and minority teachers.

"We know that it is vital for students to see themselves represented in their teachers, and it is important that students learn first in their native language. These programs can help us in meeting these important goals and in ensuring continued educational success for the children in our local communities," Hardee wrote in her nomination of Johnson. "Dr. Johnson does not get extra pay or recognition for this work, yet she has worked tirelessly to support minority students on their journeys to and through college."

Dr. Cyndee Perdue Moore

Moore, executive director of UNG's Oconee Campus, was a staff honoree. She helped launched the Nighthawks Student Opportunities for Accelerated Readiness (SOAR) program, which bridged the summer education gap. Nighthawks SOAR targeted economically disadvantaged and English as a second language learners who are potential first-generation college students.

Nighthawks SOAR provided hands-on activities and thought-provoking lessons for students from Athens-Clarke and Oconee counties. They received information about the college application process and had the chance to present research projects.

Students at Nighthawks SOAR showed 24.3% improvement in science, 8.8% in research and study skills, 6.7% percent in mathematics, and 5% in English/language arts in tests after the program.

"The foresight and actions of Dr. Moore have aided these students in not only understanding but also visualizing their place as contributing members of our community and leaders in the global society that we all now live and work," Dr. Gary Adcox, director of Campus Success and Strategic Initiatives at UNG’s Oconee Campus, wrote in his nomination of Moore.

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