01/16/2006

Mix It Up Student Leader Gets King Award

A high school senior who has been instrumental in her school's Mix It Up Day is being recognized today with an "I Have A Dream" award as part of her community's Martin Luther King Jr. commemoration.

Lauren Kay Murphy, a student at Normal Community High School here, has organized Mix It Up at Lunch Day since the beginning of the program four years ago.

The annual nationwide event, sponsored by Teaching Tolerance, encourages students to break down the barriers that keep them from knowing those who are different. Her school was one of more than 15,000 that took part in Mix this year.

"A counselor told me about Mix when I was a freshman," Murphy said. "It's a really good idea."

Most of her fellow students enjoy the topsy-turvy day and eagerly participate, Murphy said. "But some are afraid to leave their comfort zone, even just for one day," she said.

In addition to Mix, Murphy works with her peers in other ways to eliminate stereotypes and racism. She is co-president of her school's Students Embracing Diversity Club, a group that helps her organize Mix each year.

She serves as a peer mediator at her high school, helping students solve conflicts with the school administration.

Murphy participated in a "homeless night" simulation where students spent the night in boxes in the parking lot of a local grocery store to raise funds for the Midwest Food Bank and Salvation Army. And she took part in a fundraiser for Easter Seals. Murphy also volunteered for the Special Olympics and the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life.

All these efforts to make the world a better place for all people earned her this year's Martin Luther King Jr. youth award, which is called "I Have A Dream" and is coordinated by the Normal Human Relations Commission. An adult is also chosen to get a King award each year. They will be honored at a luncheon today at the Interstate Center.

Murphy plans to major in political science when she enters the University of Illinois next year.