FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Laurie Kappe
Adriana Godoy Leiss
Unsung Heroes Each Receive $25,000; Honoring the Late Dr. Su Yon Park
Los Angeles – Three community leaders will be honored by The California Wellness Foundation (TCWF) with the 2012 California Peace Prize for their efforts to promote peace and prevent violence in California.
Elder Michael Cummings is a violence prevention specialist who creates safe streets for youth and opportunities for families living in the Jordan Downs Public Housing Complex in Watts, a neighborhood in Los Angeles. Kevin Grant works to help young people involved in the juvenile justice system and those living in Oakland's most impoverished neighborhoods find alternatives to violence. The late Dr. Su Yon Park, who died in September, pioneered making mental health and counseling services more accessible to trauma-exposed youth living in Oakland neighborhoods plagued by violence and poverty.
"For two decades, our Foundation has honored individuals who have displayed great courage and leadership in preventing violence in California communities," said Dr. Diana M. Bontá, president and CEO of TCWF.
All three leaders are being honored for their dedication to providing compassion, hope and alternatives to violence in communities where individuals are disproportionately impacted by crime and involved in the criminal justice system.
On December 12, the Foundation will honor these community leaders at its 20th annual California Peace Prize ceremony in Los Angeles. In recognition of their efforts to prevent violence and promote peace, the honorees each receive a cash award of $25,000.
"We are proud to mark the twentieth year of the California Peace Prize," Dr. Bontá said. "By honoring the work of Elder Cummings, Mr. Grant and the late Dr. Park, we celebrate their inspired passion that has made a remarkable impact on communities working toward a healthier and safer California."
Elder Michael Cummings, also known as "Big Mike," together with his wife Sauna, founded We Care Outreach Ministries, a nonprofit organization working to improve the quality of life for residents, restore hope and strengthen families. In addition to running his own tow truck business, he leads two community programs: Safe Passages, where he walks students to and from David Starr Jordan High School — adjacent to the Jordan Downs housing complex — to ensure youth are without fear of harassment or violence; and Project Fatherhood, a program of Children's Institute, Inc., which helps fathers who are recently released from incarceration learn how to be better parents. Born and raised in Watts, Cummings believes his years on the streets as a former gang member and his experience within the criminal justice system have helped him establish trust and credibility with the people he serves.
"We have to challenge kids to do the right thing," Cummings said. "But, we also have to be role models to give them a reason to be inspired."
Kevin Grant is a renowned expert in street outreach, violence mediation and re-entry programs. Growing up on the streets of Oakland, Grant himself was in and out of the juvenile justice system at a young age. Released from federal prison in 1989, Grant says he gained from his experience the motivation to change the direction of his life and the compassion to help others like himself. As a consultant, he provides probation and parole re-entry services and conducts trainings and workshops for law enforcement agencies, community service providers and school districts at local, state and federal levels. Grant is the violence prevention network coordinator for Measure Y, which was passed in Oakland in 2004 to fund violence prevention and public safety. He leads skilled street outreach teams made up of members of the community, who intervene to prevent conflict and/or retaliation before they happen in Oakland's most dangerous neighborhoods.
"I believe that a lot of the violence in our communities is preventable," Grant said. "Through building relationships, we can give the power back to the communities."
The late Dr. Su Yon Park was a licensed psychologist and clinical coordinator at Children's Hospital and Research Center Oakland (CHRCO). She joined the center in 2004 to help create a mental health clinic on the campus of Youth UpRising, adjacent to Oakland's Castlemont High School. Working with youth living in a community plagued by poverty, violence and high rates of post-traumatic stress disorder, she helped to normalize mental health by systematically making it more accessible. As a result, the mental health utilization at Youth UpRising/Castlemont Health Center is now the highest among Alameda County's adolescent health clinics. Dr. Park also strengthened the mental health services at Chappell Hayes Adolescent Health Clinic in West Oakland by forging partnerships with the school's principal, teachers, students and other stakeholders. Understanding the impact of violence on youth, she provided professional development trainings for teachers and school staff to recognize and help students exhibiting behaviors related to exposure to trauma.
"The best possible futures for our young people is realized through approaching relationships with humility, building a collective vision and honoring one another's contributions," Dr. Park said.
Diagnosed with cancer, she passed away on September 20, 2012. Prior to her passing, the Foundation recognized Dr. Park with her award. On October 12, hundreds gathered to celebrate her life at the Oakland-based Youth UpRising; a grantee of TCWF. TCWF Board Chair David Barlow joined community members, regional, statewide and federal representatives in remembering and recognizing Dr. Park's work.
The California Wellness Foundation is a private, independent foundation created in 1992, with a mission to improve the health of the people of California by making grants for health promotion, wellness education and disease prevention.
The Foundation prioritizes eight issues for funding: diversity in the health professions, environmental health, healthy aging, mental health, teenage pregnancy prevention, violence prevention, women's health, and work and health. It also responds to timely issues and special projects outside the funding priorities.
Since its founding, TCWF has awarded 6,544 grants totaling more than $815 million. It is one of the state's largest private foundations. Please visit TCWF's website at CalWellness.org for more information, including a newsroom section devoted to the California Peace Prize and the three honorees. High-resolution photos are also available. Video interview clips are posted at TCWF's YouTube channel.
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