Sharon Irish, project coordinator for the iSchool's Center for Digital Inclusion (CDI), has received the "Yes We Can" Education Award from the Champaign County Chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). The award, presented at the NAACP's Freedom Fund banquet on October 20, recognizes Irish's service to the community and commitment to equity in education.
According to Irish, this award provided an opportunity to honor and celebrate the organizations with which she has worked over the past several decades: Dream Girls Academy, Inc.; Urbana Neighborhood Connections Center; Tap In Leadership Academy; Don Moyer Boys and Girls Club; Saving Our Lives Hear Our Truths; and Ghetto Genius. She connected with many of these groups initially through her work at the CDI, formerly the Community Informatics Initiative, as well as through her involvement with local public libraries and schools.
"Education means building on the cultural wealth in our communities, supporting each learner where they are to move toward their own goals in the context of their own relationships," said Irish. "The amazing leaders among us show up time and again to create new knowledge with other learners through creative interactions—imagining well-being and brilliance, collaborating to move toward those goals."
She said her aim has been to support and amplify the work of the leaders of these organizations.
"As Grace Lee Boggs wrote," she said, "'Students must discover their own understanding of the truth by developing a heightened awareness of their situation.’ We must explore 'why' in addition to knowing ‘how.'"