National Civil Rights Museum hosts virtual Student Forum as its opening Freedom Award event

Forum to feature Keeper of the Dream Award winners and youth talent

Memphis, TN, Sept. 29, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- The National Civil Rights Museum is opening its virtual doors to classrooms nationwide for its 2021 Freedom Award Student Forum. The event is designed to specifically address young people, inspire them to take action, and stand for something meaningful in their communities.  This year’s Keeper of the Dream Award winners are high school seniors Rheagan Crenshaw and Zahra Chowdhury.

Sponsored by International Paper, the annual Student Forum is the opening event for the museum’s Freedom Award celebration.  The Student Forum exposes youth to civil and human rights leaders to help bridge the gap between everyday people and movement makers.  This year’s forum hosts are WMC-TV reporter, Kelli Cook, and 2019 Keeper of the Dream recipient, Marissa Pittman, a student at Dillard University.

During the Student Forum, selected students are presented the Keeper of the Dream Award for their work in demonstrating compassion, leadership, commitment and service.  The 2021 Keeper of the Dream Award winners are young women who have a heart for senior citizens and helping youth cope mentally.  The two didn’t let a global pandemic thwart their efforts to serve an urgent need in their community.

Rheagan Crenshaw is a senior at Hutchison School in Memphis, TN. After her grandmother’s passing in 2018, she created Rheas of Hope Volunteer Initiative which is dedicated to creating a positive impact in the lives of senior citizens through programming and other events connecting teen volunteers with area senior citizens. Rhea continued her work through the pandemic by creating socially distant events to lift the elderly’s spirits.

Zahra Chowdury is a senior at Pleasant View School in Bartlett, TN. A CHANGE fellow at Bridges, last year Zahra created Counselors Not Cops campaign to replace law enforcement in schools with mental health professionals and resources. During the pandemic, she continued her work by meeting with politicians and community leaders.

“This year’s Student Forum promises to be an unprecedented event,” said Dr. Noelle Trent, the museum’s Director of Interpretation, Collections and Education. “We are looking forward to celebrating the achievements of our area youth while also reflecting on the current fight for social justice, inclusion and equity. The virtual platform promises to open up new ways for us to engage with students and educators.”

The Student Forum also features entertainment by young artists like Caleb Thompson who will present a special performance. He is currently an understudy for New York’s Metropolitan Opera in Terrance Blanchard’s Fire Shut Up in My Bones, the first performance by a Black composer in The Met’s 140-year history.

The Student Forum live stream is free and open to classrooms and student or youth groups nationwide who register.  Educators and youth group leaders are urged to register for the virtual event for the chance to engage via a moderated chat or Twitter feed with the hashtag #NCRMStudentForum.  For more information, visit the Freedom Award website.

About the National Civil Rights Museum

The NATIONAL CIVIL RIGHTS MUSEUM, located at the historic Lorraine Motel where civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated, gives a comprehensive overview of the American Civil Rights Movement from slavery to the present. Since the Museum opened in 1991, millions of visitors from around the world have come, including more than 90,000 students annually. Serving as the new public square, the Museum is steadfast in its mission to honors and preserves the site of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s assassination.  We chronicle the American civil rights movement and tell the story of the ongoing struggle for human rights, serving as a catalyst to inspire action to create positive social change.  A Smithsonian Affiliate and an internationally acclaimed cultural institution, the Museum is recognized as a 2019 National Medal Award recipient by the Institute of Museums and Library Services (IMLS), the top national honor for museums and libraries.  It is a TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice Top 5% U.S. Museum, USA Today's Top 10 Best American Iconic Attractions; Top 10 Best Historical Spots in the U.S. by TLC's Family Travel; Must See by the Age of 15 by Budget Travel and Kids; Top 10, American Treasures by USA Today; and Best Memphis Attraction by The Commercial Appeal and the Memphis Business Journal.

About Smithsonian Affiliations

Established in 1996, Smithsonian Affiliations is a national outreach program that develops long-term collaborative partnerships with museums and educational and cultural organizations to enrich communities with Smithsonian resources. The long-term goal of Smithsonian Affiliations is to facilitate a two-way relationship among the Affiliate organizations and the Smithsonian Institution to increase discovery and inspire lifelong learning in communities across America. More information about the Smithsonian Affiliations program and Affiliate activity is available at


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