2019 Award Winners

Monica Curca

Monica Curca is the founder and managing director of Activate Labs, a non-profit organization that builds a global creative force for peace and social justice. Herself a refugee from Romania, she has become a human rights defender, especially for those who have been marginalized or forgotten. As a social entrepreneur she combines her skills as an artist with technology to reinforce her messages for positive social change. She uses popular education and participatory design –especially the “Frame Design Process,” a proprietary human-centered design methodology developed by Activate Labs – to support movements, organizations, and grassroots communities as they work collectively to shift relationships, policy narratives, and culture towards peace. Currently she is working with migrant communities in Mexico, Colombia, and the USA.

One nominator said of Monica Curca, “There is no degree of separation between Monica and the people she supports. … It is both her passion and her courage that exemplify her impact.”

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Holocaust and Human Rights Education Center

The mission of the Holocaust and Human Rights Education Center (HHREC) of White Plains, NY is to enhance teaching and learning the lessons of the Holocaust and the right of all people to be treated with dignity and respect. To address a lack of state support, the HHREC took the initiative to develop education and training programs that would enable teachers to treat this complex subject sensitively and confidently.  

Its programs include teacher institutes, biannual Educators Missions to Germany and Poland, annual high school and middle school, Human Rights Institutes for sophomores and seventh graders respectively, traveling exhibits, Holocaust speakers, and programs for the community at large. In 2019 alone close to 600 students from over 45 public, private, and parochial high schools learned how to mobilize their schools and communities about human rights issues.

Representative of HHREC’s programs is Upstander Week, a follow-up to its Human Rights Institutes that encourages student leaders return to their schools with action plans around a theme of human rights activism and actively oppose behaviors like bullying, bigotry, and hatred before they become a culturally accepted norm.

The national and international increase in anti-Semitism, racism, Islamophobia, homophobia, together with hate-related acts of violence has prompted the HHREC to develop programs for teachers, students, and the whole community on the history of anti-Semitism and the symbols and language of hate. 

Appreciation from teacher participants testify to the effectiveness of HHREC’s programs with comments like “For the last several years, it has been one of the most inspiring days of the school year for me” and “Woe! What an amazing day at the Human Rights Institute for both students and teachers!  Our students were inspired and are looking forward to becoming facilitators!”

Executive Director Millie Jasper will accept the award on behalf of the Holocaust and Human Rights Education Center.

>> Learn more about HHREC

David Shiman – Lifetime Achievement Award

David Shiman

Now professor emeritus at the University of Vermont, David Shiman was a leader in human rights education when few scholars acknowledged it as a field of study and professional practice. His publications unite scholarly inquiry with practical classroom applications, benefiting from his years as both a teacher educator as director of the Center for Global and Peace Education and as a human rights activist with Amnesty International. He served on the Board of Directors of Amnesty International USA and was critical in the establishment of its National Educators Steering Committee. His service as a founding member of Human Rights Educators USA is a testament to his lifelong commitment to making human rights education a central focus of K-university programs nationwide.

As well as working in the United States, Professor Shiman has conducted human rights research and educational endeavors internationally, including in China, South Africa, Israel, and Occupied Territories, and many other countries in Africa, South America, and Europe. Also reflecting this broad understanding of social justice, his publications cover topics as varied as teaching about the holocaust, challenging stereotypes, confronting prejudice, global education, and reforming teacher education. He is the author of some of several groundbreaking curricula in human rights education including Teaching About Human Rights: Issues of Justice in a Global Age (University of Denver, 1988), The Prejudice Book: Activities of the Classroom Teacher (ADL, 1994) and Economic and Social Justice: A Human Rights Perspective (Univ. of Minnesota Human Rights Center, 1999).

Shiman’s has significantly shaped the design and delivery of HRE in the United States. The cumulative impact of his work marks him as one of the few indispensable leaders in the field.

The Convention on the Rights of the Child 30th Anniversary

The 2019 winners of the O’Brien Awards exemplify the exhortation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child that education should be directed to

… responsible life in a free society, in the spirit of understanding, peace, tolerance, equality of sexes, and friendship among all people, ethnic, national and religious groups and persons of indigenous origin.

Human Rights Educators USA is proud to honor Monica Curca and the Holocaust and Human Rights Education Center for their outstanding efforts to do just that!