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The Unity Awards

Celebrating those creating a world without bullying!

2020 Nominations are now closed.
Please check back early June for award announcements!

The Unity Awards are presented by:
The Faces of Change — The Youth Advisory Boards of PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center

Right now, kindness, acceptance, and inclusion are more important than ever. We know there are people who care and take action to make our schools, communities, and the internet better places, but they don't always receive the recognition their amazing work deserves. That's why PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center is proud to host the 6th Annual Unity Awards. The Unity Awards, first held in 2015, is a celebration to recognize those who are helping to create a kinder, more inclusive, and more accepting world—whether it’s by empowering others to take positive action, advocating for those who need support, or sharing acts of kindness that cause a ripple effect in one’s community..

Due to COVID-19, we will not be holding an in-person event this year. However, we are excited to still celebrate the 2020 Award Recipients on our website and our social media platforms!

Nominations come in from around the country and have included teachers who have touched the lives of students, individuals or groups who have been active in their communities, and those who simply made someone feel that they were not alone. Everyone is welcome to nominate an individual or a group for this year’s national awards.

The Unity Award categories are:

  • Together Against Bullying
  • United for Kindness
  • United for Acceptance
  • United for Inclusion

Nominations are open until May 11th, 2020.

We will also be presenting The Faces of Change Awards to individuals or groups making a difference in Minnesota, where PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center headquarters is located, and in the Los Angeles area, where NBPC maintains an office.

Youth Board Vision Statement

The Faces of Change believes that our generation has a responsibility to lead and interact with kindness, acceptance and inclusion. Our goal is to promote bullying prevention and inspire students to support one another. We are leaders who care and we will use our voices to show that student involvement can create positive change, resulting in stronger relationships, safer schools, and more supportive communities.

Youth Board Reads Blog Post

A message from the Youth Board

Highlights from the 2019 event!

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Highlights from the 2018 event!

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Award recipients

Highlights from the 2017 event!

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Award recipients

Highlights from the 2016 event!

View the album

Award recipients

Highlights from the 2015 event!

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Award recipients

Charles Kolin – “Together Against Bullying” Award

“Charles Kolin’s positive energy and hard work enabled him to almost single-handedly bring Unity Day to his school, Greens Farms Academy (GFA). When Charles first heard about Unity Day and saw a video on PACER’s website promoting the event, he was inspired to make this day of celebration and awareness a reality at GFA. Others’ thoughts and feelings have served as the driving force behind Charles’s commitment to this project.

From the very beginning, he wanted students who felt different or excluded to know that they weren’t alone. For the event, he wrote a speech in which he revealed his own experiences with being bullied at his previous school. In his speech, Charles shared the following: “Although I had to go through my bullying experience alone, my hope is that no one else has to. Putting an end to bullying is an extreme task. I truly believe in the best of people...I believe that if we unite as neighbors, as a family, we can end bullying so that our classmates, those who are different, those with disabilities that you can or cannot see, those who are the new kids, are all treated with compassion, understanding, and kindness. We can make sure that no one walks alone and that no one is isolated. The power of many can positively affect so many people’s lives and make them feel welcomed and part of a team.”

Charles was able to recruit and inspire his own team of students and adults to help organize and plan the event. Twelve faculty members and students (including Charles) gave speeches and performed original poems about inclusion and acceptance in front of the many upper and middle school students who sacrificed their free period to attend and show support for the cause. Thanks to Charles, the majority of the school wore orange wristbands throughout the day and, more importantly, carried on conversations about kindness and inclusion that were sparked by carefully written discussion questions.

More energized and ambitious than ever, Charles is already planning Unity Day for 2019. He is in the process of reaching out to other schools as well as local politicians to invite them to participate, too. Charles wants his school to ‘lead the charge for Unity Day and help people all over the world.’”

Riverhead Peacemakers – “United for Kindness” Award

“Six years ago when I became the prevention social worker for Riverhead Community Awareness program, a student came to me about starting a bullying prevention club. From this, The Riverhead Peacemakers were born. Every year this group of dedicated fourth graders acts as role models in their schools. They read every class a book about not bullying and have them sign a pledge not to bully and to be kind. They have every school in our district participate in an event called the Great Kindness Challenge where they complete as many kind deeds as they can. During this time, all the elementary schools read a book called Emily and the Kindness Bracelet and have the students participate in a kindness bracelet activity. Since its inception, the Peacemakers have grown and have become an integral part of our school community spreading their message of inclusion and kindness.”

Mr. Jamie Pernick & Mr. John Efthemis – “United for Acceptance” Award

“Mr. Pernick is one of our assistant principals and Mr. Efthemis is a highly regarded English teacher here at Lancaster High School. For the past five years, they have spearheaded a group of students who orchestrate a truly heartfelt musical performance at a “Bands Against Bullying” show that takes place every April. The dedication that these two men show to the students who volunteer to orchestrate this performance and be involved in the production of the show is second to none. Mr. Pernick takes care of the logistics of the event and attends the meetings necessary to be able to take part in the show. Mr. Efthemis works directly with the students, putting well over 100 extra duty hours from December through April when the performance takes place at the University at Buffalo, Amherst Campus.

Working as support staff in the high school, I get to see firsthand how beneficial this program is. The students that participate in this endeavor come from diversified branches of student life. You can see the visible apprehension in the faces of some students when they first begin in December, but by the time of the production they are basically united as a family. It’s truly amazing to see how this diverse group comes together. Usually, these two educators recommend students to attend the informational meeting who they know may need a morale boost or a feeling of inclusion. The feeling of belonging and having a purpose to accomplish this performance can be the one thing that keeps some of these students feeling really good about themselves.

Both Mr. Pernick and Mr. Efthemis have helped to broaden the minds of many students, faculty, and family members alike about being empathetic to one another and allowing each unique individual to contribute something special to this show. This year we have 29 students directly involved and the theme of the performance touches on issues regarding bullying, racism, gender identification, and academic issues among peers. The efforts of these two educators have helped to provide insight to all who are fortunate enough to see this production! Both Mr. Pernick and Mr. Efthemis should be acknowledged for their selfless contributions to many students, especially over the past five years when they have participated in this “Bands Against Bullying” program.”

Sachiri Henderson & the BEAST CREW – “United for Inclusion” Award

Sachiri Henderson, a 14 year old 8th grade student, started the club BEAST CREW her 7th grade year at middle school. BEAST stands for Bullying Ends against Students Together, which she came up with after experiencing bullying in 4th grade. The objective of this enthusiastic group is to provide a safer and kinder campus. They meet with an objective of eradicating bullying on campus and creating a kinder and inclusive campus. They have shown acceptance to peers and others on campus and work to include other students in the club regardless of their abilities. It›s refreshing to see this amazing population of young people share their experiences while working to ensure that others do not have to experience similar traumas. This club has been instrumental in creating change at Youree Drive Middle by bringing a greater awareness of bullying’s prevalence, working as a group to address issues and create an atmosphere of acceptance.

Along with founding BEAST CREW at her middle school, Sachiri has used PACER’s mission throughout her pageant career and has now made BEAST CREW, Inc. a corporation with the objective of having BEAST clubs and/or Unity Day events at schools and community organizations, who are already on board to share kindness and be inclusive of others while addressing bullying. She has lead her school in a number of community service projects and worked to create a kinder campus by speaking on all forms of bullying, using personal power to speak up, bystander approach, and conflict resolution to name a few. The highlight of her efforts is the annual Unity Day event, which has brought together the community. Her desire to create visible change on her campus as well as educate the community is evident in her pursuit to create a kinder community as she went from being a target to a survivor herself.”

Rogue Robotics, Farmington High School Robotics Team – “Faces of Change” Award

The Farmington High School Robotics Team, known as Rogue Robotics, was created “to give students an opportunity to develop an interest in STEM and other team skills.” Along with exploring creativity through STEM, this robotics team has been active in creating inclusion within their local community. They have made a powerful impact this year by creating two functioning power wheelchairs, hand-built from Power Wheels riding toys, for children with disabilities. The team has taken their expertise in technology and building, as well as assistance from GO-BABY-GO, to create these power wheelchairs, which can cost thousands of dollars. While this team has won many competitions in the past, this work in their community has made a widespread impact. As one team member shared, “I think we won here more than we do in our competitions.”

Kaia Kallestad – “Faces of Change” Award

The moment Kaia Kallestad walks into our 2nd grade classroom she radiates kindness from her head to her toes! She is a breath of fresh air. She sees the good in everything! There is not one ounce of negativity in this young lady. She finds ways to encourage her classmates throughout our school day. She will say, “Great job!”, “You can do it!”, and “Can I help you?” to all her classmates. Her infectious smile and quiet, subtle ways can change a student’s mood. Her kindness rubs off on everyone. If we are finishing up our Morning Meeting with one of our daily activities, you will find Kaia giving high fives to the winners of the game. When a classmate is sharing a story or special personal item, Kaia is sitting, watching, and listening to every word. She knows that item is special to her classroom friend and she wants them to shine during their sharing time. Kaia demonstrates kindness in every act she does. During this school year, Kaia was bullied by a classmate. She didn’t tell anyone at first, but then found the courage to talk to her parents, who are amazing advocates for their daughter. They reported what was going on and from then on, Kaia has used her own voice to report any type of bullying behavior. I am nominating Kaia Kallestad because she is the perfect example of how a person should treat others. Kaia is creating a kinder world!

South View Middle School Peer Insights – “Faces of Change” Award

The South View Middle School Peer Insights group creates a culture of acceptance and inclusion within their school walls, which extends to their community. This group started in 2010 with the simple question, of “Why Not?” Students and staff looked at their school’s footprint and schedule and asked themselves, “Why not include students with disabilities?” and from there the inclusion revolution started. Students with and without disabilities now have formalized times within their school day to interact with one another through academic tutoring or social activities. The impact of this group creates a school culture that expects inclusion in their everyday lives and extends outside of their school days. This group also participates in events with Special Olympics MN where they showcase their unified mindsets on the sporting field. Peer Insights is recognized nationally as a ‘premier program’ for inclusion at the middle school level.

Prairie View Student Council – “Faces of Change” Award

Since one of our school expectations is to Be Kind, the student council decided to sponsor an entire Kindness Week in February. To prepare for this we made signs and put up a banner in the lunchroom. We made signs that said ‘Time to be Kind’ and hung them from every hallway clock in the building. We also made morning announcements the previous week and challenged every classroom to compete in a friendly competition to decorate their classroom door for the week by incorporating a heart into their theme. Students chose four winners and they received bags of popcorn. For the actual week, student council officers read a quote about kindness over the intercom every morning. Students were also challenged to perform random acts of kindness all week long. Student council members had pockets full of erasers with positive affirmations, such as ‘awesome’ and ‘super,’ that they handed out all week when they observed students being especially kind or helpful. We wanted to make sure the staff was included, too, so we wrote up cards and put out treats each day for the entire staff. Some of these were oranges-“Orange You Glad It’s Kindness Week?” and doughnuts- “Doughnut Forget It’s Kindness Week!” We also taped a few baggies with a kind note from the student council and two quarters onto our soda machine in the staff lounge as a random act of kindness (RAK). This was particularly well received and appreciated! We put up a RAK Staff Challenge in the staff lounge, too. This had five suggestions for the week, one for each day, and included such things as, “Tell your class three things you appreciate about them,” and, “Praise a staff member you work with.” Lastly, during lunch we pulled down our big screen and played peaceful music with beautiful scenery from all around the earth to remind us that kindness is needed all over the world. This was our first Kindness Week. All items were purchased by the student-run student council school store proceeds, although we tried to keep cost minimal. I believe it was a big success due to the hard work of our student council members.

Pete Martinez – “Faces of Change” Award

Pete Martinez is a Youth Outreach Worker for The Conejo Recreation and Park District in the City of Thousand Oaks. He works with “at-risk youth” and connects with each one through compassion, acceptance, understanding, and respect. He conducts bullying awareness workshops designed for 7th and 8th grade students in the Conejo Valley Unified School District. Participating students are “awakened” to empathy, shown how to recognize the various types of bullying, are encouraged to prevent and respond to bullying, and understand the importance of standing up to bullying and how to do it. Pete believes that there is power in kindness, but it takes a little courage to use it on ourselves first and toward each other every day. Pete helps youth understand that we are ALL connected with each other and that the more we try to win over someone, the more we lose.

In the 35 years of service to youth Pete has gained just as much as he has given. Pete always says, “You would be amazed how much you get back when you let go – think about that and then feel it”.

Abi Smith, Pepperdine Waves Debate Team and Woodlake Elementary Debaters – “Faces of Change” Award

This group sponsored, created, organized, and produced a Pepperdine University debate on the question, “Can we imagine a world without bullying?” Through their efforts, they secured the support of the University and got credit for Pepperdine students who attended, created teams from the Pepperdine Waves Debate Team and Woodlake Elementary School who debated the premise, and promoted the event actively. 315 Pepperdine students attended and 100% commented that they learned something new about bullying.

Deborah Huffman– “Faces of Change” Award

Ms. Huffman coordinates and produces the AAU Journey Dancesport CA State Championships/West Coast AAU Junior Olympic Qualifier for Dancesport as well as the annual West Cost AAU Jr. Olympic Games for Dance (held in CA), where she has promoted bullying prevention in a world where it is not often talked about. Inspired to work on bullying prevention after her grandson died by suicide after relentless bullying, she has included bullying prevention materials in all events over the last two years, and created a fundraiser for NBPC at the West Coast AAU Junior Olympics qualifier & AAU California State Championships for Dancesport this past March (where dancers learned the “Unity Dance” – a PACER creation – and performed it on the competition dance floor). She is working with the AAU (Amateur Athletic Union) to encourage the topic of bullying prevention to be represented in all AAU sports.

Charles Kolin – “Together Against Bullying” Award

Riverhead Peacemakers – “United for Kindness” Award

Mr. Jamie Pernick & Mr. John Efthemis – “United for Acceptance” Award