Local resident Linda Hooper is among the 10 winners selected by USA Network, along with its distribution partners, for the 2013 Characters Unite Awards. Characters Unite is USA’s public service campaign to combat hate and discrimination and promote greater tolerance and acceptance – on-air, online and in communities across the country.
The 2013 winners were selected from hundreds of nominees for their efforts to champion civil and human rights in their communities. Each honoree will be acknowledged during a hometown award ceremony and will receive a $5,000 grant from USA and participating local distribution partners to support his/her project or related nonprofit organization. Additionally, honorees will be featured on-air in a PSA and online at charactersunite.com.
Ms. Hooper, while serving as principal at Whitwell Middle School, founded a grassroots Holocaust education program that drew worldwide attention to the community and brought together students, teachers, families and the entire town in support of religious tolerance and the fight against discrimination. In a region with little religious, racial or ethnic diversity, Ms. Hooper decided to found a voluntary after-school program that would teach students about the impact of the Holocaust by collecting a paperclip to represent each victim lost. The students wrote letters, and as the program grew, they began to receive letters from Holocaust survivors and supporters around the world. Today, the project has received over 30 million paper clips from 20 different countries, inspired an award-winning film Paper Clips and led to the establishment of a Children’s Holocaust Memorial at the school.
A believer in the power of education as a vehicle to tolerance, Ms. Hooper brought to fruition a program that has touched the lives of many, officials said. She has since served as a motivational speaker, traveling around the country speaking about The Paper Clips Project and about teaching as a means to positively change the world.
The awards ceremony will be Monday, Oct. 28, at 6 p.m. CST at Whitwell Middle School.