Human Rights Council Breakfast

12/11/09 Jennifer Tuohy
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Nearly 350 people attended the Tampa/Hillsborough County Human Rights Council’s 36th annual awards breakfast this morning. The Theme was “Human Rights of Hope, our Future Speaks out Now”.

The Tampa/Hillsborough Human Rights Council advocates and promotes the legitimate and human rights of all residents of Hillsborough County.

This morning the Council recognized 4 individuals for their contributions to human rights in our community:

• Donna Schulz, Law Enforcement Coordination Manager. Shulz and her office oversee the local hate crimes roundtable that gathers community leaders from various ethnic, racial, and religious backgrounds to increase communication and work to prevent hate crimes in our region;

• Dwight Rhingledecker, who for 35 years has volunteered at many organizations in our community including the Shriners Hospital for Children, NAACP, Hillsborough County School District, the Tampa/Hillsborough Human Rights Council, and the Coast Guard Auxiliary;

• Julianne Holt., Public Defender of Hillsborough County;

• and Dr. Lydia Medrano, founder of the Tampa Bay Latino Coalition, and Florida Commissioner for Education for LULAC, the largest Latino civil right and advocacy group in the US.

Mike Trepper, Vice President of the Human Rights Council, praised the award recipients, and the community at large.

The Council also recognized winners of its high school essay contest. Amy Cheng of King High School won first place.

Keynote speaker Debbie Johnston, whose son committed suicide as a result of bullying, reminded the audience that “everyone has a voice”, and should speak out against cruelty and injustice.

The Council is clearly focused on the role young people play in furthering human rights. They work with educators and the school board, and have announced their intent to name student human rights awards recipients in the future.

Young people from the community testified about the importance of human rights initiatives on their lives.

Rola Al-Abbasi, a high school student spoke of the discrimination challenges she has faced.

Reno Williams, a 12 year old boy with Aspergers’ syndrome who was born blind spoke of the need understanding and education.

Sarah Ogdie, a student activist, encouraged people to get involved, to be active in their communities.

To find out more about Human Rights issues and initiatives in our community visit the Human Rights Council’s website at

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