October 29, 2020

Media Contacts:
Mark Miller, Administrator, Office of Public Information, 410-313-2022
Yolanda F. Sonnier, Administrator, Office of Human Rights, 410-313-6430
ELLICOTT CITY, MD – The Howard County Human Rights Commission announced that Jumel Howard, Erika Strauss Chavarria and The Horizon Foundation are the recipients of the 2020 Human Rights Awards during a virtual awards ceremony on October 22nd. In addition, Charmaine Y. Yuan is the recipient of the Human Rights Commission’s newly formed Human Rights Student Award.

"These awards celebrate outstanding Howard County residents and organizations that work tirelessly to serve our community through their humanitarian efforts," said Howard County Executive Calvin Ball. "Each has gone above and beyond to garner this recognition from the Howard County Human Rights Commission. In recognizing these incredible award recipients and everything they do to serve others – I can confidently say this is just the beginning of their legacy."

Presented annually, the Human Rights Commission Award honors individuals and community organizations for contributions to human and civil rights in Howard County. The purpose of the award is to recognize exemplary citizenship, dedicated leadership and outstanding achievement in eliminating or eradicating discrimination, while advancing human rights for all residents of Howard County. Award recipients are selected by the Commission based on nominations submitted by the community.

A pillar of the LGBTQ community and a determined individual, Jumel Howard is breaking down barriers to ensure everyone is accepted and included, no matter their sexuality and/or race. Jumel founded the first Howard County Pride Festival and is an exceptional role model for Howard County youth. Jumel has become a well-known and respected conduit in the promotion of community dialogue and reinforcement of the county’s goals of diversity and inclusiveness.

In March 2020, Erika Strauss Chavarria started the Facebook group “Columbia Community Care” (CCC) in response to the growing and dire needs of community members struggling in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Since then, Erika has volunteered at schools throughout the county, providing food to more than 100 families a day. She even volunteers to distribute food on weekends when Howard County Public School System Grab-and-Go meals are not available. In addition to her role with CCC, Erika has also advocated for and testified on behalf of Howard County’s immigrant community, served on the Education Equity Police committee for school equity and accountability, and helped organize the Black Lives Matter march and vigil in Columbia in June.

Committed to improving the health of Howard County’s residents through innovative initiatives, collaborative partnerships, strategic grantmaking and thoughtful advocacy, the Horizon Foundation is this year’s organizational recipient of the Human Rights Award. Through its programs, the Horizon Foundation strives to promote social justice, equity and dignity for all, and consistently aims to help everyone in its community, especially those facing the greatest challenges.

This year, the Commission launched its inaugural Human Rights Student Award contest, which specifically recognizes individuals 26 and under for their contributions to human and civil rights in Howard County. Charmaine Y. Yuan is this year’s recipient of the Human Rights Student Award. A senior at the University of Maryland at College Park, Charmaine spent her winter, spring and summer breaks last year volunteering at the Howard County Food Bank, where she organized shelves, stocked refrigerators and washed bins. As a volunteer, Charmaine was committed to ensuring Food Bank clients had a decent environment to shop in and healthy food options to choose. Charmaine believes that no matters one’s income, every person deserves to be treated with respect, humanity and dignity. Committed to giving back, Charmaine also devotes her time to a number of organizations who serve her community.

For questions and/or more information about this year’s award ceremony and/or winners, contact the Office of Human Rights at 410-313-6430 (voice/relay) or email [email protected]. To learn more about the Human Rights Commission, check out the Office of Human Rights’ Commissions and Workgroups website.

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