Monday, April 15, 2024

Cristina Vaca, first-place winner, and Mirella Greenberg, second-place winner, hold up their entries in last month’s Fair Housing Award Ceremony poster contest for middle school students.

Outreach was the implicit theme April 27 at the Cambridge Human Rights Commission’s 17th Annual Fair Housing Award Ceremony, as it was during the month of fair-housing activities it capped.

It was clear not just from the award given city employee Marianne Colangelo for her role creating housing guides for Cambridge and Somerville, but in the awards offered in the commission’s annual poster and essay contest for middle school students in Cambridge. After fair housing workshops at schools and after-school programs, the Commission got 64 entries to the contest, representing students from across the city.

The theme was “Fair housing opens doors to diversity in our community,” with first-place winner Cristina Vaca and her runner-up, Mirella Greenberg, each illustrating the idea with homes and happy people of various colors.

“Fair housing does not mean same housing,” Cristina wrote in her poster entry. “Each house will still express the unique qualities of the people who live there. But everyone can have the opportunity to live in a community with others, no matter their income level.”

“Fair housing is the right thing to have,” Mirella wrote. “It will make no one feel self-conscious about their house or their financial status. Kids will be happy to play with other kids in their community no matter their financial status or race.”

Marianne Colangelo got the Innovations in Fair Housing Award.

Cambridge Human Rights Commissioner Christopher Hope delivered the keynote speech at the ceremony, speaking about his childhood experience with family homelessness in Atlanta. His story spoke directly to the students attending the event, emphasizing the interplay between housing and education. As a child he realized education was a route out of homelessness and poverty; in addition to being a social activist, he has become a graduate of Tufts University and master’s student at the Harvard Divinity School.

Colangelo, the information and referral coordinator for the city’s Department of Human Services Program, won the Innovations in Fair Housing Award. The award recognizes her work creating and maintaining materials on community housing resources, specifically a pocket housing guide, brochure and Cambridge/Somerville Resource Guide. Event organizers called the materials invaluable to Cambridge residents, particularly those experiencing housing issues, and to the service providers (including the commission) who help those residents.

The ceremony was co-sponsored by Cambridge Savings Bank, Cambridge Trust Co. and East Cambridge Savings Bank, all long-term supporters of the event. Prizes for student winners included savings bonds from the banks.

This post was written from a press release.