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K-State Today

October 2, 2019

American ethnic studies professor nominated for 2019 CNN Hero Award

Submitted by Alisa Wolfe

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Yolanda Broyles-González, American ethnic studies department head and university distinguished professor, was nominated for the 2019 CNN Hero Award by Greg Hoyt, former principal at Manhattan High School and current agent at Farm Bureau Financial Services.

In the nomination, Hoyt referenced various community arenas where Broyles-González has made a difference in the lives of many. Hoyt cites one example as Broyles-González's "dedication to uplifting the poorest and most marginalized sectors of our society: documented and undocumented poor immigrants."

"As the outgoing principal of Manhattan High School, I am well aware of the challenges young people of color in general experience in a school system whose teachers are almost all white and unaccustomed to engaging with youth of color," Hoyt said in the nomination. "This is the social context within which Dr. Broyles-González actively promotes intercultural understanding, as she dedicates herself to helping the neediest sectors of our population. She is richly deserving of the CNN Hero Award!”

Broyles-González was nominated for a variety of contributions to the Manhattan community. The nomination included mentions of her community service dedicated to addressing the racial and economic polarization, and her advocacy for Spanish-speaking immigrant families in the community — many who are undocumented.

Hoyt said Broyles-González "demonstrates an extraordinarily strong and caring presence in the community."

Some of the specifics of Broyles-Gonzalez’s work in the Manhattan community include intercultural competence teacher training at Manhattan High School; the creation of social justice student internships that bridge the American ethnic studies department with local social justice organizations and movements; the creation of an immigrant self-help network; and the institutionalization of a concurrent enrollment American ethnic studies college course at Manhattan High School, a course that will foster interracial understanding while also growing the high school to college pipeline for students.

"The entire American ethnic studies department is a CNN Hero," Broyles-González said. "American ethnic studies was created as part of historic social justice struggles in our communities of color. Our unit remains conscious of and involved in those struggles. Our social justice internships, for example, grow student consciousness and foster social change. Students put their social justice visions into practice. Participating students also develop skills not attainable in classrooms, marketable skills necessary to succeed in a diverse working world."

The CNN Heroes award was created to honor everyday people doing extraordinary things to change the world. Nominations were closed in July and featured 2019 heroes are posted periodically on CNN's website with links to crowdfunding for the heroes' respective causes. A television special, "CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute," will air at 8 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 8, with the final 10 honorees. Online voting will determine a CNN Hero of the Year. 

"This is surely an extraordinary honor for me," Broyles-González said. "If any cash award were to come my way, I would invest it in rebuilding the community center that burned down this year. That space was a central hub for immigrant gatherings, information exchange, and celebration."

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