24 members of the Human Rights Student Leadership Council. Picture taken per-COVID

The Prince William County Human Rights Student Leadership Council (HRSLC) was selected for the Virginia Association of Counties' Best Achievement Award. The HRSLC is the first collaboration between the Prince William County government and PWCS. The HRSLC is open to sophomores, juniors, and seniors enrolled in public, private, and homeschools who are upcoming inspiring young leaders. A main goal for the council is to empower student leaders to stand up for their civil rights and the rights of others. Each high school principal selected at least one student to serve on the 2019-20 council, culminating in 24 outstanding PWCS high school students to serve.

The council engaged students in community leadership development opportunities, as well as the chance to participate in dialogues about diversity and understanding an appreciation of the cultural differences of others. As a part of the council, students were able to interact with human rights professionals in the local, state, and federal level, regional community leaders, as well as other students with different cultural backgrounds and social groups. By participating in the council, students became active citizens, and forged a stronger connection between the students and their community.

"Prince William County's entry is the type of powerful program that really makes a difference," said Dr. Sheryl Bailey, visiting professor of practice at Virginia Tech and one of the judges for this year. "The program was started to assist high school students better understand local, state and federal government policies through the lens of human and civil rights. It has created a connection between students and their community and has proven to positively impact their overall success in school as well as teaching them how to be productive citizens."

One of the goals of the HRSLC is to fill leadership roles in the future and help prepare the next generation of prospective employees, tenants, and consumers. This is accomplished through the implementation of human and civil rights projects in the community, the creation of partnerships with other community organizations to raise awareness about human and civil rights issues, assisting with events that promote their goals such as the Human Rights Commission's annual Human Rights Day, and public speaking and outreach to share unique personal experiences to promote diversity at public events, in small group discussions, and online.