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Greenville Business Magazine

Diversity Champions Honored At Upstate Diversity Leadership Awards

Upstate diversity leaders were honored Thursday, May 28 at the 15th Annual Upstate Diversity Leadership Awards. The event, hosted by the Greenville Chamber and the Riley Institute at Furman in partnership with the Anderson, Fountain Inn, and Spartanburg Chambers of Commerce, recognized the following organizations and individuals for outstanding achievement in promoting diversity and inclusion in the Upstate:

  • Brian Townsend - Calder. D. Ehrmann Outstanding Individual
  • Antonio Harrison - Outstanding College Student
  • Hugh Hill - Outstanding High School Student
  • Berea High School - K-12 School: William "Bill" T. Wylie VALUED Lives Award for Excellence in Diversity
  • Mohammed Edris, Habiba Restaurant - Outstanding Contribution to International Diversity
  • Center for Pediatric Medicine, GHS Children’s Hospital - Outstanding Business
  • Clemson University Men of Color National Summit - Outstanding Nonprofit Organization

The Upstate Diversity Leadership Awards is the first and largest event of its kind in South Carolina. The event is a product of an Upstate Diversity Leaders Initiative Class 2 group project, where Riley Fellows envisioned an annual event honoring outstanding individuals and organizations in the Upstate who are moving the needle forward.

“The Greenville Chamber is honored to work alongside the Riley Institute at Furman and other community partners to honor the significant accomplishments of these outstanding leaders,” said Carlos Phillips, Greenville Chamber president/CEO.

“By working together to recognize the accomplishments of these leaders who promote diversity in our region, the Riley Institute and The Greenville Chamber hope to encourage further opportunities for more members of our community,” said Don Gordon, executive director of the Riley Institute.

Calder D. Ehrmann Outstanding Individual Award: Brian Townsend

Townsend is a 5th grade teacher at Liberty Elementary School in Pickens, a Title I elementary school. He is one of only two male regular classroom teachers and is the only African-American teacher at his school. Townsend is highly regarded by students, parents, and faculty, and was voted by staff for Teacher of the Year in only his third year of teaching.

Seeing a need for additional support for male students at his school, Townsend started a morning program for at-risk boys called RISE (Reaching Intentional Success Everyday). RISE focuses on teaching students responsibility, integrity, sympathy, and empathy through real life scenarios.

Townsend is also an active alumnus in Clemson University’s Call Me MISTER® Program, whose mission is to increase the pool of available teachers from a broader more diverse background, particularly among the State’s lowest performing elementary schools. Through the program, Townsend volunteers his time to work with the next generation of African-American male teachers.

Outstanding College Student Award: Antonio Harrison

Antonio is a 2019 graduate of Clemson University. During his tenure, he was the president and co-founder of the Minority Business Student Association (MBSA) within the College of Business. MBSA was created to recruit, retain, and develop diverse leaders in the business realm and fulfill the unique personal and professional needs that enable minorities to maximize their career potential in business.

Antonio also served as a senior peer mentor for the CONNECTIONS program, an initiative to assist first-year minority students or first-generation students with their transition to Clemson University.

He is active in the community, volunteering his time and supporting nonprofit organizations through his catering business, Peerless Catering. 

Outstanding High School Student Award: Hugh Hill

As an African-American student with an intellectual disability, Hill exemplifies how to break down barriers and help others celebrate and recognize value in diversity.

During his career at Woodmont High School, he has been a member of the marching band, volunteer assistant football coach, Mr. Sophomore, Mr. Junior, and Homecoming King as well as co-president of the school’s inclusion club. Hill formed the school’s first and only inclusion rock band, The Hugh Hill Experience. His band has won the school’s talent show and performed for the National Special Olympics Conference in Columbia in 2016.

Hill has been a keynote speaker at the University of South Carolina Upstate’s Diversity Awareness Rally and is the captain of the Special Olympic Unified Basketball and Flag Football teams.

Outstanding Contribution to International Diversity Award: Mohammed Edris, Habiba Restaurant

Mohammed is the owner of Habiba Restaurant located in Greenville. Habiba Restaurant embraces all cultures, serving a wide variety of dishes from around the world, aiming to serve a diverse population and provide a welcoming atmosphere for their customers. The restaurant hosts a French Group, poetry slams, Belly dancing groups, and hip-hop contests.

Habiba Restaurant actively recruits and retains diverse employees and has employed people from more than 16 different countries. Diversity and inclusion training plays a large role when onboarding new employees. Mohammed also has several Upstate connections to organizations that provide assistance to minorities, and he refers employees to much needed resources to help improve their quality of life.

Outstanding Business Award: Center for Pediatric Medicine, GHS Children’s Hospital

As the largest Medicaid clinic in the state of South Carolina, the Center for Pediatric Medicine, GHS Children’s Hospital (CPM) serves a wide variety of patients from different nationalities and socio-economic classes. In addition to general well child and acute care visits, they offer specialty care in adolescent clinics, newborn clinics, mental health clinics run by child psychiatrists, and a nationally-recognized asthma program.

CPM actively participates in the SC Quality through Technology and Innovation in Pediatrics program, bringing together SC practices to collaborate on specific measures that foster quality improvement projects.

In 2015, CPM opened the Ferlauto Center for Complex Pediatric Care, a medical home for medically complex children, allowing them to provide complete care at one location.

CPM is also a graduate medical education teaching site for pediatric resident physicians, medical students, nursing students, and other types of professional learners. Teaching students to embrace diversity and how to translate it to patient care and community advocacy is one of the most important components in their learning experience.

K-12 School: William “Bill” T. Wylie Valued Lives Award for School Excellence in Diversity: Berea High School

From embracing culture to igniting student interest and encouraging the learning of new skills, Berea High School works tirelessly to support and celebrate diversity. Of Berea High School’s current enrollment of 1,060 students, 438 are Hispanic/Latino, 280 are African-American, 275 are Caucasian, and 67 are other nationalities.

Because of the gap between minority students and their white counterparts attending college, Berea High offers several programs to keep their students on the path for continuing education including participation in Clemson University’s Tiger Alliance program, Furman University’s Bridges to a Brighter Future, and on-site college access program Bulldog Run.

Berea High also employs a bilingual parent facilitator to assist with Spanish speaking parents who speak little to no English. In addition to providing school communication, the facilitator has set up numerous mentoring programs and community connections.

The school’s Newcomer program provides core classes and a full load of ESOL and elective classes during their first school year before being streamlined into conventional high school courses.

Outstanding Nonprofit Organization Award: Clemson University Men of Color National Summit

Clemson University’s Men of Color National Summit was created by the University and the Division of Inclusion and Equity to close the achievement gap for African American and Hispanic males, from cradle to career success. In 2017, the inaugural event attracted nearly 2,000 high school and college students, business professionals, educators, government officials, and community leaders from around the country.

The summit, held over two days in April, provides tracks for both students and professionals that help them better understand the challenges students of color face and how to take best practices shared by the country’s top experts to their own communities. The summit prepares all attendees for a global mindset.