Jefferson native Neal Lester has been awarded an international award for a program he directs as a professor at Arizona State University.
Lester and the ASU Project Humanities he directs received an Anthem Award, often called “the internet’s highest honor,” which honors individuals, movements, and organizations “that spark meaningful local and global social change,” according to the Webby Awards, which started the Anthem recognition program in 2021.
The honor puts the program in the company of Doctors Without Borders and renowned anthropologist Dr. Jane Goodall.
Lester is ASU Foundation Professor of English and nationally renowned author and expert in African American literature and culture. He graduated from Jefferson High School in 1977.
“Project Humanities brings together individuals and communities across Arizona, nationally, and globally to instill passion and knowledge of humanities study, research, and humanist thought,” according to its mission statement,” the award said, adding:
“Demystifying this academic discipline, Project Humanities facilitates conversations across to build understanding through talking, listening, and connecting. These conversations lead to action within and between individuals and communities, always connecting diversity and inclusion with justice and humanity.”
Project Humanities includes monthly public programming and events, partnerships, research, and service opportunities “that reflect our pledge to live the principles of Humanity
It has received numerous accolades ranging from Martin Luther King, Jr. Diversity Awards to an endorsement from the 14th Dalai Lama.
The Anthem Awards drew more than 2,000 submissions from 43 countries around the world.
“This award recognizes those who provide opportunities for people to engage with their local communities on behalf of an important cause,” Lester said in a release, noting its events have drawn over 315,000 participants and 238 community partners and have contributed over 8,000 volunteer hours.
Lester also said, “This award gives ASU Project Humanities a special opportunity to thank our many volunteers, interns, staff, student workers, faculty colleagues, and community partners who continue to support and promote the mission of ‘talking, listening and connecting.’”
Project Humanities’ work also is not unlike the Anthem Awards’ mission, which is: “By amplifying the voices that spark global change, we’re defining a new benchmark for impactful work that inspires others to take action in their own communities.’’
“Whether individuals, groups, or organizations attend an event to discuss important topics or bring friends and family to a volunteer event, there is community for all with ASU Project Humanities,” Lester added.
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