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U Honors State’s Social Justice Advocates

Senator Pete Suazo.

April 8, 2013 – On Wednesday, April 10, the University of Utah College of Social Work will celebrate the 12th year of the Pete Suazo Social Justice Awards by acknowledging three individuals and three organizations as advocates and activists for social and economic justice: Yuderka Lewis, the National Alliance for Mental Illness Latino de Utah Taskforce, the Salt Lake City Office of Diversity and Human Rights, Dean Curtis, Adelante Partnership, and Christine Leishman Nelson.  The awards were created 2002 to honor the life of the late Senator Suazo by recognizing the work of those who continue Sen. Suazo’s legacy through dedication to the goal of social and economic justice.  The awards ceremony and reception will begin at 6 p.m. in the Okazaki Community Meeting Room of the University of Utah College of Social Work’s Goodwill Humanitarian Building, 395 South 1500 East, Salt Lake City.

Award Recipients:

Yuderka Lewis

Described as an innovative, engaged, and delightful leader and mentor, Yudi Lewis has spent the last 17 years assisting and advocating for Latina/o students at Utah Valley University.  After more than a decade counseling UVU students, Ms. Lewis assumed the role of director of the school’s Latino Initiative.  In that role, she has worked to expand services, financial aid, and resources for UVU’s current and prospective Latina/o students and other marginalized communities.  Under her leadership, the University has experienced a 154% increase in Latina/o student enrollment.

NAMI Latino de Utah Taskforce

In 2011, the National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI) of Utah hired a diversity coordinator who established NAMI’s Latino de Utah Taskforce.  During the Taskforce’s first year, they served more than 500 individuals, providing education, referrals, support, and guidance.  Culturally-sensitive support groups were offered in Spanish – a first in the state.  Trained instructors and facilitators have reached out to marginalized sectors of the Latina/o communities in Salt Lake, Davis, Utah, and Weber counties, providing additional resources and services in Spanish.

Salt Lake City Office of Diversity and Human Rights

Committed to listening, forming collaborative partnerships, and working for social justice, Salt Lake City’s Office of Diversity and Human Rights (ODHR) has used its unique position to provide education, support, and advocacy for all Salt Lake City residents.  Operating out of the Mayor’s Office, ODHR initiated the Community Empowerment: Human Rights Education Project, through which ODHR responds to the needs of various refugee communities.  ODHR has also utilized its numerous collaborative partnerships to produce the Status of Women in Salt Lake City Report and worked on Utah’s historic 2009 non-discrimination ordinances.

Dean Curtis

In addition to funding scholarships for Weber State University students, Dean Curtis works with numerous other committees and organizations to help increase the enrollment of underrepresented groups in college.  He has formed a community group to help Hispanic families achieve self-sufficiency, funded the production and distribution of a DVD to teach Hispanic families the value of higher education, and started a Spanish-language radio show (El Grito de la Prosperidad, or “Shout for Prosperity”) to help Hispanic families better navigate Utah’s education systems.

Adelante Partnership

The Adelante Partnership is a collaboration between Salt Lake’s Jackson Elementary School, the University of Utah, and the Salt Lake City community with the goal of helping young people get into college and out of poverty.  Adelante is available to Jackson students in kindergarten through sixth grades, benefitting over 500 children and their families this year.  The Partnership has implemented a variety of enriching activities, including field trips, oral traditions, Spanish-English spring camps at the U, a program for parents that supports parent involvement, and professional development resources for Jackson Elementary’s teachers.

Christine Leishman Nelson

Chris Nelson has developed a reputation throughout St. George as a tenacious problem-solver.  She is credited as being integral to the development of after-school and summer programs for children with mental illness; the creation of community safety plans that help families with children who have mental health or behavioral issues; the creation of St. George’s Mobile Crisis Outreach Team that provide services 24 hours a day; the establishment of a Family Support Center; the success of the annual Kony Coins for Kids Christmas program; and keeping the doors to the Washington County Youth Crisis Center open around the clock.

Additional information about the Pete Suazo Social Justice Awards can be found on the University of Utah College of Social Work’s website at

The University of Utah College of Social Work is committed to providing outstanding education and training, preparing students to succeed in the diverse profession of social work.