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Characters Unite Award Winners



Linda Michalski heard the cry of people being enslaved across the globe and felt compelled to do something to stop this injustice against humanity. Her conviction to uphold social justice, both personally and in the catholic framework of high school education, has translated into motivated students working tirelessly for the marginalized of society.

As Staff Mentor to the student leadership team known as Benedictine's Cor Defenders (Defenders of the Heart), Linda challenged her students to become a voice for the voiceless and confront evil with the power of good. Human Trafficking, the control and exploitation of another human being, especially young girls, through coercion, fraud and deceit, is one of the fastest growing criminal acts in our world. Benedictine Academy became the first Freedom Partner School with Frederick Douglass Family Initiatives to abolish human trafficking through the power of education. As Faculty Advisor, she co-designed and coordinated a school-wide curriculum to raise awareness against human trafficking, modern slavery.

Her students became Modern Abolitionists, inspired by her passion and the deep commitment of her co-worker, Sr. Donna Jo Repetti, O.S.F. To help create systemic change and advocate for prevention, they testified with Assemblywoman Huttle before the House Assembly in Trenton, N.J.; interviewed with Cindy Vero on WKTU Radio Station in NYC; spoke at Students In Action Leadership Conferences; proclaimed a New Proclamation of Freedom alongside Ken Morris, Jr., the great great great grandson of Frederick Douglass, in Washington DC, and participated in their new documentary produced by VS, "Confronting Slavery." Empowered by the Spirit and strongly armed with oratory skills, Linda and Benedictine's Cor Defenders said "yes" to every opportunity to speak out and educate people about this horrible crime against the moral fabric of our society.

Benedictine Academy has been awarded the National Jefferson Gold Medal for Volunteer Public Service for three consecutive years under her guidance and the forward-thinking educational leadership of Kenneth Jennings, Principal. They believe they have a shared responsibility to actively protect the rights and dignity of every human being. Linda encourages her students to plant their "truffula seed" in the world and stand tall among the great men and women who have fought for freedom in our country and across the globe. Together, they can and will make a difference.

Linda Michalski