Lorie Clark Honored with Pauli Murray Award
Since 1990, the Orange County Human Relations Commission (HRC) has honored a county resident with the Pauli Murray Award in recognition of service to the community in pursuit of equality, justice, and human rights for all residents. This year’s recipient was Lorie Clark, a longtime leader in Blue Ribbon Mentor Advocate (BRMA) of Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools (CHCCS), and the founder of its Youth Leadership Institute (YLI).
On Sunday, February 24, at the annual awards ceremony in Hillsborough, North Carolina Rep. Graig Meyer presented the award to Clark, saying, “Lorie has helped hundreds of students traverse the path to college or postsecondary degrees, changing life after life after life.” He noted that she was the first person to bring the use of restorative justice practices to CHCCS more than five years ago. “Lorie advocates for systemic change,” he said.
Meyer’s legislative colleague, Sen. Valerie Foushee, also attended the ceremony, along with many other lifelong residents of Chapel Hill and Carrboro and current leaders and staff of CHCCS. Nancy Zeman of The Public School Foundation, a current BRMA mentor, nominated Clark for the award. In the nominating letter, Zeman wrote, “Lorie Clark is an amazingly dedicated person who gives her all to the students and families she works with. Her work is important to our world today and impactful for our community’s future. Ms. Clark is a truly deserving candidate for the Pauli Murray Award, who has for many years served the community with distinction in the pursuit of equality, justice, and human rights for some of the most important members of our community- our youth- who will be shaping the future world we live in.”
The chair of the HRC is Dr. Deborah Stroman, professor of Health Behavior at UNC. She said of Clark, “Lorie represents the very best values in our county. She has been a tireless worker for equity, youth development, and educational achievement. Far too often we overlook those pillars working behind the scenes that make our lives and institutions more rich and impactful. Her award is long overdue. We are happy and honored to lift her up.”
Clark has served as the BRMA high school specialist for 17 years. As advisor to YLI, she has developed a program that provides leadership training, service-learning, civic and social justice opportunities and advocacy skills development. As Meyer observed in his introduction, YLI often engages more than a hundred high school students each year, making it one of the largest extracurricular activities at CHCCS.
Corrina Johnson, CHHS senior and YLI member, said, “Hearing the background on who Pauli Murray was and the obstacles she tackled reminded me of Ms. Clark right off the bat. Ms. Clark has been a big role model for me ever since I met her sophomore year. She goes above and beyond to help every single student that she crosses paths with. She has motivated me and encouraged me to become the person that I am today. She has inspired me to use my voice and intelligence in ways that I wouldn't have imagined. I love Ms. Clark and it is amazing to know how many lives she has changed.”
“She has had a major impact on many students, especially students of color,” said CHHS senior Jeneice Mason-Carter. “Personally, she has had a tremendous impact on me. She has taught me how to stand up for things that I am passionate about, even if it seems scary. I used to be very shy, and I'm not going to lie, I still am a little. but I think that I have really stepped out of my shell, thanks to her. I now know how to talk to people of higher authority. She has always gone out of her way to help the people around her, even if she's having a bad day, which is one of the things that I, and many people that know her, admire about her.”
Meyer said, “She has taught me how to be a better community member, a stronger advocate for justice and someone who is able to provide both love and forgiveness to those who are different from myself.”
“I am honored to continue the legacy of my family through service," Clark said. "Blue Ribbon is a great opportunity for me to empower my community.” At the awards ceremony, she deflected the spotlight from herself to her many current and former students. “We’ve been on a journey of advocacy. It’s not about me. I’m just grateful for all the journeys I’ve been on, with so many amazing students.”