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MLK Diversity Awards Dinner


18th Annual MLK Diversity Awards Dinner

Recap of the 18th Annual City of Tempe Human Relations Commission MLK Diversity Dinner







Keynote Speaker:
NeEddra James,
Director of Program Development and Education at Challenge Day.



2016 MLK Diversity Award Winners

Individual Adult Category

Flora Farago

Flora Farago volunteers her time to social justice issues surrounding diversity and inclusion.  As a co-facilitator in the City of Tempe Teen Diversity Dialogue program, she challenges teens to deeply consider racial and gender justice issues in today’s world.  As a member of the Arizona State University’s Committee for Campus Inclusion, Farago directs students in planning ASU’s Local to Global Justice Forum and Festival, an event that has brought together more than 500 students and community members to exchange ideas and strategies to address social justice issues.

Athena Salman

Athena Salman is an advocate for economic justice and workers’ rights.  As a student senator for Arizona State University’s Undergraduate Student Government and as a State Press reporter, she advocated for diversity issues.  As a UNITE HERE Local 631 shop steward, she recruited and nurtured refugees, Latinos, and underrepresented groups to become their own advocates.  She worked with Central Arizonans for a Sustainable Economy to engage Latinos into voting and increased regional turnout by almost 500 percent.  Additionally, she champions women’s issues as demonstrated by her work with the Girl Scouts – AZ Pine Council recruiting and welcoming young Latinas and in encouraging women to engage in politics. 

Tonia Smith

Tonia Smith is a founder of Stand & Serve and its current board Secretary and Treasurer. Stand & Serve is a best-practice positive youth development and violence prevention program serving eight sites in Tempe and Phoenix.  Stand & Serve is for youth committed to cultivating safety, equality and respect as norms and its goals are to empower members and other youth to spread peace, model compassionate behavior, and treat everyone equally and with respect regardless of identity, beliefs or background.  Smith has worked in youth development for more than 15 years and prepares disadvantaged youth for academic success as the Boys and Girls Club’s Education Coordinator. 

Benjamin Taylor

Benjamin Taylor has worked as an attorney for the underserved and has enhanced the dignity of those who rarely have a voice in the Tempe and Phoenix communities. Because of his commitment to social justice, he takes on some of the Valley’s most controversial and contentious matters.  Without hesitation, Taylor tackles racial inequality and social justice issues by standing alongside community leaders at town hall meeting and press conferences.  As a mentor, he devotes a Saturday each month to under-served youth through a national non-profit organization.  Taylor is also the youngest board member of the Maricopa County Branch of the NAACP, serving as a volunteer for the legal redress committee to advocate for people treated unfairly at work or in other settings. 


Individual Youth

Kristyn Taylor St. Yves, Tempe High School

Tempe High School senior Kristyn Taylor St. Yves has been involved in her school’s Stand & Serve Club since her freshman year. She has been a peer educator for middle school students and is now a leader for both middle school students and new peer educators.  St. Yves also does presentations about youth movement and youth inclusion in the prevention of violence.  She has a busy school life as the school mascot at every game; she plays in orchestra, and is in cheer.   In her off- time, she helps care for the Wilson’s Street Community Garden and was involved in creating a mural to beautify its community space. 

Tyra Simpson, Tempe High School

Tempe High School senior Tyra Simpson is a member of the Stand & Serve Club serving as a peer educator for younger peers, facilitating local violence prevention workshops, and hosting the Stand & Serve bi-annual day at the Capitol events and coalition meetings.  Her ongoing commitment to her school and her community is evident each year as she volunteers at the Tempe Tardeada, the MLK Diversity Awards Dinner, and the Unity Walk. She also plays in the school marching band and symphony band, and participates in the drama club, all while balancing honors and international baccalaureate classes. 

Education Category

Kyrene del Norte Elementary School Equity Team

The Kyrene del Norte Elementary School Equity Team examines the intersectionality of race and culture in education.  With Tempe’s demographic shift reshaping the city’s classrooms  - coupled with the persistence racialized achievement gap between students of color and their White and Asian counterparts -  the team seeks to have an honest and courageous conversation about race and schooling.  Team members seek to build their capacity in understanding the role of race and culture at Norte, change the narrative about the achievement gap, and provide professional development to the larger school community in ensuring the closure of the achievement gap.  The Kyrene del Norte Equity Team exemplifies a commitment to diversity by removing students’ racial identity as a predictor for school success. 

Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine

Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine has a diverse student body representing six countries and 25 states:  more than 30 percent of students self-identified as ethnically diverse.  The college shows an ongoing commitment to diversity by providing access to naturopathic medicine at local community clinics and supporting public health.  On an international level, the college engages with “Naturopaths without Borders” with their students travel ling to Rocky Point, Mexico to provide care to the underserved.  The students have also established other initiatives such as providing medical support to Veterans and other at-risk groups.


For a list of past Diversity Award Recipients click here.