Each year, the ERCBNA Advocacy Office awards the Blessed Edmund Rice Advocacy Person of the Year Award, which recognizes an ERCBNA School staff member who has demonstrated exceptional commitment to promoting advocacy efforts throughout the academic year. The recipients of the 2021-2022 award are Mrs. Christine Chana, Chemistry Instructor and Co-Moderator of Iona Preparatory’s Human Rights Club, and Mrs. Patricia Gray, English Instructor and Co-Moderator of Iona Preparatory’s Human Rights Club.
Pat and Christine have been intimately involved in the Edmund Rice network in North America and around the world. They have traveled extensively with students to participate in service immersions in Peru, Brownsville, India, and beyond; and have equipped students with the awareness and leadership skills to make change, through the ACTION Student Leadership program. They have taken what they have witnessed and learned and creatively brought these lessons back to share with, and encourage participation by, the Iona Prep community.
Their leadership of Iona Prep’s Human Rights Club since 2016 has allowed students and staff members at Iona the opportunity to learn about a variety of human rights and social justice topics, and they have worked tirelessly to provide the Iona Prep community with opportunities to advocate for justice in our society and world. Some of their work together on Iona Prep’s Human Rights Club has included advocating for statelessness, and those who have been pushed to the margins in their country of residence, often without basic rights such as the right to vote, obtain a passport or attend school.
They have developed opportunities for Iona Prep students to learn about and meet Edmund Rice Students from South Africa, and these efforts have included raising money through bake sales and the sale of fair-trade items to fund the educational costs of four students at St. Mary’s Primary School in Bloemfontein, South Africa.
Other projects they have led have included the promotion of sustainability and ecological concerns through the promotion of recycling, using compostable utensils, and the sale of reusable water bottles; support of the Special Olympics annual Polar Plunge fundraiser, including leading Iona Prep students to raise the most funds of any team in New York State for multiple years; working with the Holocaust and Human Rights Education Center’s trainings to learn about human rights concerns, and a recent anti-bullying and respect campaign at Iona Prep.
We congratulate Christine and Pat on their award, and thank them and the entire Iona Preparatory School community for their efforts in continuing to live out the Charism of Edmund Rice in promoting human rights and justice in their community and beyond.