Salt Lake teacher Mike Harman receives national award for work to end homelessness


Michael Harman is among a dozen recipients of prestigious NEA Human and Civil Rights Award

Michael Harman does not readily acknowledge the incredible contributions he has made for homeless youth and families, but tonight the NEA put Harman in the spotlight by honoring him with the Reg Weaver Human and Civil Rights Award.

Harman is one of 12 outstanding social justice heroes honored at the 2018 NEA Human and Civil Rights Awards, which took place on Sunday, July 1, in Minneapolis. The annual event—which honors educators, individuals, community partners, and organizations that are advancing the mantle for human and civil rights—is the byproduct of the historic 1966 merger of the National Education Association and the American Teachers Association.

“The human and civil rights champions we honor tonight are the epitome of the fierce urgency of now that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke about in his ‘I have a Dream speech,’” said NEA President Lily Eskelsen García. 

“Through their deeds and actions, they have demonstrated remarkable courage and conviction to stand up for racial and social justice. They have shown an unrelenting resolve and ferocity to make a real difference for public education, students, and our nation’s future. They are shining examples of social justice activism, fighting against injustices every day, and making sure that our great nation lives up to its promise.”

Throughout his life, Harman has built bridges between the homeless and elected officials, faith organizations and community groups. His work improves the lives of families in poverty and boosts understanding about their circumstances.

Harman is the founder and director of SOAR—Summer Outdoor Activities and Recreation through the Neighborhood Housing Association of Utah. The program engages middle school students, many of whom are marginalized by poverty, in a nine-week youth leadership development program. Students receive daily opportunities for community service, asset building and recreation. For a nominal fee, which can be as low as $10, and is based on a family’s ability to pay, the program also includes trips to locations like Washington, D.C., Yellowstone National Park, and other sites. 

“Mike is an amazing advocate for homeless students and those living in poverty,” said Utah Education Association President Heidi Matthews. “He is a champion, an incredible Association leader and a dear friend to many. I cannot imagine anyone more deserving of this human and civil rights award.”

For more than a decade, Harman has served as the Homeless Education Liaison for the Salt Lake School District, working directly with an increasing population of homeless youth and families in the region. Within NEA, Harman worked to amend the Legislative Platform at the 2016 Representative Assembly to call on HUD to broaden their definition of homelessness to align with the way it is defined by the Department of Education. He has provided official testimony before a variety of entities, including the Utah State Legislature. 

In addition to Harman, NEA also recognized former first lady Michelle Obama and the Know Your Rights Campaign, founded by professional quarterback and activist Colin Kaepernick, for continuing the quest for human and civil rights in America. 

To view the bios and achievements of all 12 awardees, click here. To see Harman in action, click here

Follow the conversation on Twitter #NEARA18 #EdJustice2018 @NEAMedia

The National Education Association ( is the nation’s largest professional employee organization, representing more than 3 million elementary and secondary teachers, higher education faculty, education support professionals, school administrators, retired educators and students preparing to become teachers.

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