Katy Pederson, a 4th-grader at Gold Canyon Elementary in Apache Junction, Ariz., had the courage to stand up to classmates who were teasing a special needs student.

Pederson is one of three individuals who received a Moral Courage Award on April 3 from NAU’s Martin-Springer Institute for taking a stand for social justice in Arizona schools and communities.

“When her peers chose to continue teasing and mocking the other student, Katy chose the course of moral courage by reporting their actions to an adult,” said Linda Donnelly, a first-grade teacher at Gold Canyon Elementary school, in her nomination letter. “As an elementary school student, this is not an easy choice to make, namely speaking out against intolerance and against one’s peers.”

Also recognized with Moral Courage Awards were:

  • Yvonne Watterson, principal of the Gateway Early College High School in Phoenix, for advocating for students affected by Proposition 300
  • Flagstaff social activist Lisa Raynor, for weekly rallies supporting the local Planned Parenthood center

The institute also awarded Cindy Haworth, a teacher at Gilbert High School, with the Doris Martin Holocaust Educator Award. Haworth was recognized for her efforts in starting a Holocaust literature class that now reaches 250 students a year.

“The Southern Poverty Law Center recently reported an increase in hate groups across the country,” said Gretchen McAllister, director of the Martin-Springer Institute. “Other reports have revealed an increase in bullying in schools. Given these rises in intolerance and hatred, we need to encourage moral courage in our communities by acknowledging individuals who do just this.”

The Martin-Springer Institute began the Moral Courage Awards five years ago to foster its mission of applying the lessons of the Holocaust to teach about moral courage, altruism and tolerance.

For information, contact Melisssa Cohen at (928) 523-2464 or Melissa.Cohen@nau.edu.