March 2, 2022 – Collinsville High School senior Carlos Cruz-Cortez was chosen by the school to receive a 2022 Racial Harmony Award from the Center for Racial Harmony in St. Clair County.
Racial Harmony is “an organization dedicated to promoting understanding, cooperation, and communication among all races and ethnic groups.” Each February they host an annual Gathering “to honor students who have promoted goodwill and respect and have sought peaceful ways to resolve differences.”
Carlos was nominated by CHS teacher Mark Schusky, who described him as a “peacemaker”:
“Carlos is a consummate peacemaker, especially in terms of one who promotes good will among all people. His quiet, calm, yet welcoming demeanor, displayed unceasingly to all people in all situations, brings diverse students and adults together and helps make our school a better place to learn, study, work, and attend.”
Schusky gave examples of how Carlo’s actions make him worthy of recognition:
“Carlos displays these traits in every aspect of his personality. One example just occurred in my Current Events class — in a conversation about masks, which is a heated topic to say the least, Carlos was the ‘peacemaker’ in class in terms of mediating opposing viewpoints from students, working to de-escalate emotions and focus a conversation on fact and reason. He helped all students see that approaching any topic from a position of mutual respect leads to better and more fulfilling outcomes for all parties.
Almost like a ‘referee’ in the discussion, Carlos was able to teach — better than I could — the positive outcome of mutual respect and gaining a broader and more empathetic insight into opposing views from different students and student groups.
A second instance of this was more visible and also speaks to Carlos’ impressive musical abilities — he helped organize and perform traditional Mexican music in the school quad for a Mexican Independence Day celebration to share his culture, and broaden the student body’s horizons intellectually, culturally, emotionally and musically. In addition to playing, Carlos also was a true leader in fostering discussions with students about his culture, multicultural viewpoints more generally, and the positive outcomes that arise from a diverse, welcoming, and understanding school climate and culture.”
Schusky lauded Carlos as a leader at CHS in many aspects of student life, “[He] has been a voice and exemplar of peacemaking, emotional maturity, and broad-minded thinking all four years at Collinsville High School – in addition to his academic excellence.”
Carlos was one of only two CHS students selected for the Illinois Association of Music Educators (ILMEA) All-State Honor Band this year and is actively involved in the Multicultural Kahok Club.