These Pathfinder Award recipients will be honored at the 31st Annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Celebration on Monday, January 19 at Minnesota State University, Mankato Centennial Student Union. The event will begin at 5:30 p.m. with hors d’ oeuvres and social time. The program begins at 6:15 p.m. with the awards and scholarship presentation, followed by entertainment at 6:35 pm by Girls Scouts Connectz, Project for Teens, and I AM, WE ARE (Gustavus Adolphus College) followed by Keynote Speaker Rev. Dr. Jaime Washington presenting 50 years after the Civil Rights Act: How are we doing?.
Three awards are presented at the banquet:
- The Pathfinder Award was created in 1986 to recognize individuals or organizations that, in the spirit of Dr. King, are initiators or action takers in the struggle for equal treatment, human rights and non-violence.
- The Young Pathfinder Award was added in 2002 to recognize the commitment and courage displayed by area young people to achieve fair and equal treatment for all, healthy communities and peaceful resolution to conflicts.
- The Business Pathfinder Award was established in 2003 and is presented by Greater Mankato Growth to recognize businesses that strive for equal treatment, human rights and non-violence in the workplace.
Tickets are $10 (10 and under free) and may be purchased in advance at: Greater Mankato Diversity Council, 10 Civic Center Plaza (385-6653), Minnesota State University, Mankato, Office of Institutional Diversity, Morris Hall #265 (389-6125), South Central College Bookstore, 1920 Lee Blvd., North Mankato (389-7221) or The Coffee Hag, 329 N. Riverfront Dr. (387-5533). Only a limited number of tickets will be available at the door.
Learn about the 2015 Pathfinder Award Recipients
Pathfinder Award: David Burgess
The Pathfinder Award recognizes adults or organizations that, in the spirit of Dr. King, are initiators or action takers in the struggle for equal treatment and human rights. The award represents the ideal that all people should be treated fairly and equally without the fear of discrimination on any basis.
Dave was chosen because of his work to create opportunities for all students at East High School to learn science even though they may have barriers in language or pre-requisite knowledge. Dave wrote curriculum and created two courses, Science Fundamentals Biology and Science Fundamentals Chemistry, which have been offered for several years and a third course, Science Fundamentals Physics which will be offered during the 2015-2016 school year.
Dave first championed the development of these courses to meet an identified weakness of providing English Language Learners with an authentic science experience. Since beginning the classes several years ago, the classes have been opened to other students who struggle to understand the sciences and need continued support. The classes now use a co-teaching model with varying teaching methodologies to meet the needs of the students they serve.
Young Pathfinder Award: Kos Adam
The Young Pathfinder Award was created in 2002 to recognize the hard work, commitment and courage displayed by area young people and organizations of young people as they strive, in the spirit of Dr. King, to achieve fair and equal treatment for all, healthy communities and peaceful resolution to conflicts.
Kos Adam is a senior at Mankato East High School was chosen for her concern for others and for her community. Kos shows concern for her high school community by participating as a Link Crew Leader and mentoring younger students. Link Crew Leaders are chosen from among juniors and seniors and work with incoming freshmen to help them transition successfully to high school. A young woman of high character, Kos has been a great role model to these students for the past two years.
Kos has also helped with the Life Skills prom, a student-directed activity which provides a spring prom for a group of “high needs” young people who would not otherwise be able to enjoy this rite of passage. Student plan, implement and participate in putting on the prom, and Kos was an active part of this last spring. This activity is an important part of creating an inclusive community, where all are values.
In addition to participating in organized activities and programs, Kos is a young woman who reaches out to and feels comfortable with students from a variety of backgrounds, helping to break down barriers between social groups and create an inclusive, welcoming community.
Business Pathfinder Award Recipient: Imperial Plastics
The Business Pathfinder Award was established in 2003 and is presented by Greater Mankato Growth to recognize businesses that strive for equal treatment, human rights and non-violence in the workplace.
This year’s recipient, Imperial Plastics, has been a steadfast employer of refugees, making changes to their building and policies to make them feel comfortable and welcome.
Imperial plastics has long partnered with MRCI WorkSource to employ 10 – 15 of their clients, but in 2013 Imperial Plastics approached MRCI when the business was seeking to fill gaps in their workforce. They discussed options and agreed their needs could best be met by employing refugee alternate workers from MRCI’s Minnesota Family Investment Programs and their Refugee Employment Service grant. Today, over 30 refugees have gained employment through Imperial Plastics partnership with MRCI.
Imperial Plastics proactively works to make sure they are meeting and understanding the needs and customs of their refugee employees. They have two lead workers serving as interpreters and also work closely with MRCI staff to make sure both the employer and employees understand each other.
Not only do they work to understand their employees, they allow the use of a separate room for prayer and other rituals. They continue to modify and expand their policies to be able to accommodate the refugees. For example, they are monitoring the job demands of each worker to ensure that their attire and possible injuries sustained from fleeing their homelands are not obstacles for them to be successful in the role there are given.
Typically many companies seek to fill their needs through local employment agencies, not considering the refugee population even though refugees possess the same skills and abilities to do the job. This award is proudly presented to Imperial Plastics for their willingness to open their doors to their new neighbors, for fulfilling the dreams of many refugees of being employed and for being understanding, flexible and compassionate.