The Rye City Human Rights Commission has announced four individuals – three youths and one adult – are the recipients of its annual human rights awards. The recipients of the 2022 Rye Human Rights Awards will be recognized next Wednesday, February 1, 2023 at the Rye City Council meeting.
2022 Rye Human Rights Award
The 2022 Rye Human Rights Award was awarded to Christine Groves. Groves has served as co-president of the Children’s Philanthropy of Rye (part of the Rye Women’s Club) for the past four years. The organization is best known as the sponsor of the bake sale and concessions at annual Purchase Street Halloween window painting and the family portraits oﬀered in Rye Town Park.
The Children’s Philanthropy has continuously had an outsized impact for low income families in Rye. For children whose families qualify for federally funded lunch programs, the Children’s Philanthropy of Rye raises funds to ensure that these children and their families receive food during summer and school breaks, gifts (often staples such as coats and boots) during the holidays, and support and scholarships for community summer camps, and youth enrichment programs.
Groves has organized community events to raise funds — from the Halloween window painting bake sale to the spring boutique to yoga classes.
“Christine is quietly benevolent, silently working to create equity in our community and ensure that all children in Rye have access to vital aspects of childhood,” said
Rita Capek, chair of the Rye Human Rights Commission. “She believes that all children have a right to adequate nutrition, warm clothes and opportunities to play — and she strives to make sure that those rights are realized for economically challenged children in Rye.”
2022 Rye Youth Human Rights Award
The 2022 Rye Youth Human Rights Award recognized co-recipients this year. The first individuals are Rye Neck seniors James Fall and Eduardo Ruigomez. Fall and Ruigomez approached their teacher and advisor in order to start a club in Rye Neck to openly discuss ongoing societal issues. These students wanted a club where people felt safe expressing their feelings and where honest, open and necessary conversations would be welcome.
Throughout the year, the club discussed many topics that made headlines locally and worldwide. In the meetings, Fall and Ruigomez led conversations surrounding police misconduct, controversies and misunderstandings surrounding slogans like “defund the police.” They led conversations on the Ukraine conflict and the issue of race within this topic addressing the diﬀerence with which refugees from Ukraine were welcomed into neighboring countries while Syrian refugees faced many obstacles to entry.
“In creating this club, both Fall and Ruigomez created a space where open and honest conversation was valued,” said Capek. “Students learned more about the topics beyond the headlines as well as themselves. There was no judgment during discussions and people left feeling heard and better connected to their community.”
The Second 2022 Rye Youth Human Rights Award
The second 2022 Rye Youth Human Rights Award was awarded to Rye High School junior AJ Miller. Miller is one of over 60 RHS upper-class student ambassadors students who serve as a year-long “welcome wagon” for incoming 9th graders and students new to the high school. He was assigned to the GARNETS program as their ambassador. The G.A.R.N.E.T.S. is an inclusive special education program designed to help students Gaining Academic Rigor in a Natural Environment through Teaching Life Skills.
Miller and the other ambassadors who were assigned to the GARNETS co-founded the Bridges club whose mission is to build a welcoming, connected community and culture of acceptance at Rye High. They support and connect the most vulnerable students in meaningful inclusive ways during lunch, seasonal celebrations, and after-school activities. Miller is a leader of the club and helps to guide peers in making meaningful connections to peers with disabilities. He recently presented to the RCSD BOE on the work happening at Rye High to support inclusion.
“AJ’s work is the beginning of something wonderful so all students feel safe and welcome,” said Capek. “His dedication to the program as well as his desire to voluntarily spend time with his Special Needs peers outside of the program, fosters inclusion in the schools and our community.”
About the Awards
Nominations were solicited from the community in the two categories. The first category was for an individual (18 years or older) or organization whose eﬀorts in 2022 made an important contribution to fostering human rights and/or relations in Rye City. The second award was open to individuals 18 years or younger who live in Rye or attend any of the schools in Rye City or Rye Neck whose eﬀorts also made an important contribution to fostering human rights and/or relations in Rye City.
In 2021 the individual Rye Human Rights Award went to Dr. Genevieve Weber for her advocacy for the LGBTQ+ community and the youth award went to Amanda Yannett and Cristiana Villani, both Rye High School graduates, who organized the local Black Lives Matter march in 2020 that attracted more than 1,000 people and then, one month later, founded the Rye Coalition for Change.