AUSTIN, Texas—Judge Scott McCown, social worker Rebecca Flores, the People Organized in Defense of Earth and her Resources (PODER) and H-E-B are being honored by The University of Texas at Austin School of Social Work for exemplary contributions in social justice.
The mission of the School of Social Work emphasizes the promotion of social and economic justice by infusing justice values across all components of its curriculum and in the conduct of professional activities, said Dean Barbara White.
"The decision to establish these awards was based on the recognition that the school cannot confront these issues in isolation from our university and community context," White said. "The recipients are those who vividly exemplify accomplishments in improving social and economic justice opportunities within our state."
The inaugural Vision and Valor Social Justice Awards are divided into four categories of excellence.
McCown, who retired as a state district judge in 2002 to become director of the Center for Public Priorities, is receiving the Award of Distinction. Texas Monthly has called him the "voice of the voiceless" and "the conscience of Texas politics."
Before coming to the center, McCown presided over all Texas Public School finance cases from 1990-2002 and thousands of child abuse cases. He petitioned the governor and the 76th legislature for additional funds for child protection. As a result of his efforts, the state appropriated an additional $2 million for child protective services.
Flores, who is a social worker with more than 30 years of advocacy and service on behalf of agricultural workers in the United States, will receive the Award of Honor. Because of her commitment, farm workers in Texas can now negotiate for minimum wages, have clean water to drink and rest rooms in the fields where they work.
Most of all, she has helped many farm workers in learning how to advocate for themselves, their families and their communities, White said.
The school’s Award of Courage—Grassroots Effort goes to PODER, an organization developed in 1991 to address the impact of industry and the potential health hazard on East Austin’s communities. The group led the effort to shut down a 52-acre tank storage facility that was said to be polluting the area.
PODER established the Young Scholars for Justice Project to encourage youth to be involved in its work.
H-E-B is receiving the Award of Merit for being a "progressive and socially committed business in Texas."
According to the School of Social Work, the H-E-B grocery company distinguishes itself with its accessibility, its commitment to reflect the communities’ diversity in its hiring practices and commitment to local growers.
Since 2003, the company has provided significant funding through its H-E-B Excellence in Education Program, which rewards teachers, principals and school districts for outstanding performance in education.