Social Justice Awards
The City of Holland Human Relations Commission's annual Social Justice Awards recognize individuals and organizations who exemplify the virtues of social justice by promoting equal opportunity and equal access for all residents in the areas of Housing, Education, Employment, Government/Community Relations, Health Services, and Accessibility. The Social Justice Awards also has a Youth category for students age 13-19; winners in this category are determined by the Holland Youth Advisory Council (HYAC).
“The strength of our community proceeds from the equity of access for our community members. We recognize that we all start from different places and so we adjust our services, policies, and programs so that we all have opportunities to succeed. That sense of fairness and justice is made possible by the creativity and dedication of individuals and organizations who work tirelessly to make Holland a community where everyone belongs. We celebrate their achievements and encourage others striving toward the same goal with the Social Justice Awards”
Catherine Ristola Bass, chair of the Human Relations Commission
Submit your nomination for the 2023 Social Justice Award HERE.
The deadline for nominations has been extended to Monday, December 11, 2023.
The nominating form for the Youth Social Justice Award can be found here.
The 2022 Social Justice Award recipients are:
EDUCATION: I Am Academy for helping dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline systems within educational institutions through mentorships with students and community partnerships. By partnering with area schools, I AM Academy empowers African American adolescents and young adults to achieve their full potential by centering their identity, cultivating relationships, supporting educational success, providing college experiences, and facilitating job readiness; ultimately changing the narrative and trajectory of their community.
HOUSING: Heights of Hope is a community development organization that focuses on the "Holland Heights" area of Holland, specifically the Stratford Way and Abbey Court neighborhood, home to an extremely diverse population with a variety of talents, strengths, challenges, and needs. Heights of Hope is dedicated to the mission of affordable housing, recognizing that rent increases have a dramatic impact on nearly every aspect of residents' lives, including food security. With that mission in mind, Heights of Hope recently bought a six-plex apartment building on Abbey Court, providing six safe and affordable living units that cannot be controlled by landlords who renovate and then increase rents dramatically.
GOVERNMENT/COMMUNITY RELATIONS: Ottawa County Office of Public Defender for serving impoverished individuals and people of color who are disproportionally represented as defendants in in the criminal justice system and for hosting two free expungement clinics in 2022 that assisted more than 160 individuals in Ottawa County to have very old criminal convictions set aside and erased from their records. These convictions present barriers to employment and licensing for disadvantaged individuals and people of color. Erasing the convictions from their records allows them to become more productive members of our community and achieve their full potential.
HEALTH SERVICES: the Miles of Smiles mobile dental unit run by the Ottawa County Department of Public Health provides on-site preventive and restorative dental services for financially qualifying uninsured, and Medicaid insured Ottawa County residents. Services are provided at schools, migrant camps, Head Start Centers, and Ottawa County Department of Public Health clinics via a 40-foot mobile unit equipped with a waiting area, laboratory, two operatories, digital x-ray and a wheelchair lift. A volunteer network of more than 100 dentists, hygienists, and Grand Rapids Community College dental hygiene students work as dental healthcare providers. Through Miles of Smiles, kids can get quality dental care right at school so that they don't miss school days and the families can depend on good and safe care without having to miss work.
YOUTH SOCIAL JUSTICE AWARD: Greta Traver. The Holland Youth Advisory Core Council has named Greta Traver the Youth Social Justice Award winner for 2022. Traver is an advocate for bilingual tutoring and for calling out racism and homophobia. She helped found a bilingual tutoring program to assist students who struggle with the English language at the north branch of Herrick Library. Being tutored in their native tongue helps ESL students learn quicker and achieve more. In addition, Traver stood up to fellow boat racing competitors in addressing their racist and homophobic comments to other teams during a sporting event. An investigation ensued and her actions led to a new policy to prevent further behavior like this.
LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD: Ann Weller for her countless hours of volunteerism, personal sacrifices, and displays of exceptional community spirit in her work over the past 21 years. Weller is a founding member of the Alliance for Cultural and Ethnic Harmony, started in 1999 in response to the recommendations of the President Clinton's Commission on Race, and has continued to serve as a board member providing the City of Holland with exceptional counsel and education in the areas of social justice, academic growth, microaggressions, diversity, equity, inclusion, and equality. Weller serves as editor of ACEH’s weekly newsletter, In the Community. With a distribution of more than 1,400, the newsletter is a must-read for anyone supporting social justice and equal opportunities in Holland.
In accepting her award, Weller said, “I grew up in the South when everything was segregated, legally and in practice. And even as a kid I knew this was not the way to live. So, throughout my life, before I moved here and since I moved here, if there are issues of peace and justice, if there are issues of gender equality, if there are issues of who can belong and who can’t belong, I will never be a bystander.”
Watch the video of the 2022 awards presentation here. https://youtu.be/qF3DU3kcxbM
I Am Academy received the 2022 SJA for Education.
The proud team behind the Miles of Smiles mobile dental clinic of the Ottawa County Health Department.
Lifetime Achievement Award recipient Ann Weller and Youth Social Justice Award recipient Greta Traver.
The Ottawa County Office of the Public Defender
Ann Weller and Michelle Slikkers, Human Relations Commissioner
Abraham Hernandez (HYAC) presents the Youth Social Justice Award to Greta Traver.
Nichole Derks from the Office of the Public Defender.
Congratulations to the 2022 Social Justice Award Recipients!