The Asian American Justice Center presented the National Education Association with its “Bridge Builder Award” on Thursday in recognition of the NEA’s outstanding efforts to empower Asian American and Pacific Islander students.
NEA has brought national attention to achievement gaps Asian American students suffer from socioeconomic barriers and language difficulties and has helped debunk the “model minority” stereotype that prohibits many Asian American students from seeking the help they need. NEA has also helped foster better communication between parents and schools, and its members have hosted diversity trainings and cultural immersion programs.
NEA Secretary-Treasurer Becky Pringle, a science teacher from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, accepted the Bridge Builder Award on behalf of the association.
Pringle said she was proud of the NEA for standing up for social justice and equal opportunity since its founding 155 years ago.
“We as educators must all stand up for social justice,” she said. “And our members endorse the principle of public education for children of all races.”
Pringle said NEA is still fighting for equality, but the work is far from finished. She pointed out that Asian and Pacific Islander students still face language barriers, physical and verbal bullying, and an intense pressure to live up to a “Super Student” label.
“You can count on NEA to continue to fight for school supports that lift up students who need extra help,” she said. “We will always be there in the struggle for affirmative action and civil rights, including a fair election where every vote is protected and every vote that is cast is counted.”
Currently, NEA is advocating for minority students by supporting deferred action for DREAMers. Deferred action allows temporary relief from deportation for young undocumented immigrants. NEA is organizing clinics and educating members so they can help advise students and their families on immigration issues.
“I know I don’t have to tell this audience that we are in a fight for social justice,” Pringle said to the cheering crowd of about 150 people. “Every child should have the chance to go to school with the kind of educators I had the pleasure to meet.”
Other honorees at the awards ceremony included Curtis Chin, who created a groundbreaking documentary about the hate crime and murder of Vincent Chin (no relation), and has since traveled the country promoting Asian American rights. Jim Shee was awarded the American Courage Award for standing up to SB 1070, Arizona’s notorious immigration law. He is a plaintiff in the Valle del Sol v. Whiting, et al case.
Pringle said the NEA will continue to partner with organizations like the AAJC to support students of all races, and to ensure that every child has a chance to succeed in American public schools.