Valley’s Mayada Alwan Earns DEI Excellence Award (09/09/2022)
Sept. 9, 2022 | Valley High School senior Mayada Alwan was honored as the Student Leader of the Year at the West Des Moines Chamber of Commerce’s (Chamber) second annual Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Workplace Excellence Awards (DEI Awards) on Sept. 1, 2022. She was recognized for her passionate work surrounding diversity, equity, and inclusion, from co-authoring an anti-hate speech policy for Valley and presenting at the 2022 Des Moines Human Rights Symposium to leadership within student groups like Refugee and Immigrant Student Embassy (RISE), Community of Racial Equity (CORE) for Advancement, and World Cultures Club.
“At 17 years old, Mayada has already accomplished so many things, and anyone who meets her agrees that we cannot wait to see what her future holds,” WDMCS intercultural outreach coordinator Gianna Pugliese wrote in her nominating letter. “She worked harder than most, using her background as a former refugee to guide her work and fuel her passion for helping others.”
Alwan also received a $1,550 scholarship from American Equity Life Insurance Company, the DEI Awards’ Minority Leader Scholarship Sponsor, as part of her award. In her acceptance speech, which received a standing ovation, she thanked her family in her native language before highlighting the prejudice immigrants and refugees often face.
“There will never be a definitive single story about us,” Alwan said. “We are human beings who, by forces outside of our control, have found ourselves trying to escape economic uncertainties and violence. I challenge you to rethink the false narratives about immigrants and their stories and encourage you to always let compassion and empathy win in the clash over fear and hate."
A night “full of learning, growing, and celebrating the work being done to make Central Iowa more inclusive,” the DEI Awards recognize recipients in 11 categories. A panel of judges including CultureALL’s Stacey Kimberlin and Bobbi Segura of Women Lead Change selected the 2022 award recipients from a pool of 36 applicants.