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EJP's Language Partners shares highly competitive social justice leadership prize with organizations from Palestine and New York

by The College of Education / May 15, 2013

The Education Justice Project’s Language Partners program has been honored with the inaugural Arcus Prize for Collaborative Social Justice Leadership. To win the award, Language Partners competed with 188 other organizations from 23 countries. The competition was so rigorous that the judges decided to give the $30,000 prize (originally set at $25,000) to three organizations.

EJP's Language Partners shared the award with a group that organizes restaurant workers, ROC United, and a grassroots funding organization in Palestine called the Dalia Association.

"The Arcus Prize recognizes not only the important work that Language Partners and the Education Justice Project are doing at Danville prison, but also the fact that we accomplish this work through shared leadership," EJP's director Rebecca Ginsburg said. "This prize truly belongs to all of the Language Partners—including university faculty, staff, and graduate students and the peer instructors at Danville that are the engine behind Language Partners."

The prize, given by the Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership at Kalamazoo College, was created to award programs that demonstrate transformative thinking and commitments in its leadership structure, build the voices and leadership of those affected to take strategic action, and "attack root causes." It also looks for organizations that contribute to building movements for justice by making connections across gender, race, age, sexuality, ability, issue, nation, organization, religion, and political point of view.

See the UI News Bureau's coverage of the Arcus prize…

This is the third time that Language Partners has been recognized this spring. Hugh Bishop, the program's coordinator, received the Prison Volunteer of the Year Award from the Illinois Department of Corrections in recognition of the important work of the Language Partners program in providing ESL instruction to men at Danville Prison. "The genius of the program is that incarcerated men themselves serve as peer instructors," Ginsburg said.

Bishop was also named the Danville Correctional Center Volunteer of the Year. This is the fourth year in a row that an EJP instructor has been bestowed with the honor by the correctional center.

"This is the best class I have all week," Bishop told the News-Gazette, contrasting the EJP class with UI classes. "You don't see students playing on their cellphones here. These guys are motivated to learn English, to improve their lives and their families' lives."

Photo: Language Partners' LuAnn Soreson (far left) and (back row, left to right) LP's Hugh Bishop and Freddy Freitez and EJP director Rebecca Ginsburg with the other recipients of the 2013 Arcus Award at the awards ceremony in Kalamazoo on May 11, 2013.