Heggins gets White House award

Sep. 19, 2013 @ 12:15 PM

Al Heggins, human relations director for the city of High Point, was among 10 people honored Thursday by the White House as a “Champion of Change.” Heggins will be recognized as part of Citizenship Day and National Welcoming Week during which the White House will honor local heroes who “work tirelessly to effectively integrate immigrants civically, linguistically, and socially into the fabric of their neighborhoods by bringing all residents together to create welcoming communities,” according to a White House press release.
News of the award came as a surprise, Heggins said Wednesday as she packed for her White House trip.
“I first thought the notification was a joke,” Heggins said.
The citation credits Heggins with acting on several visions for human relations.
Heggins designed and implemented three programs: affirmative fair housing, the High Point Student Human Relations Commission, and intensive educational outreach about city services and civic engagement opportunities. The programs were aimed at boosting diversity and understanding through a series of community talks and other programs.
The city agency was selected by the University of North Carolina’s Institute for the Study of the Americas and the Latino Migration Project for the Building Integrated Communities initiative aimed at transforming municipalities and counties into equitable and inclusive communities.
Supported by BIC, the agency convened the series of community focus groups of immigrants and other residents to develop a 16-point strategic plan to seamlessly integrate the city’s culturally diverse residents. The agency added two working committees, the Interfaith Affairs Committee and the International Advisory Committee, and worked out a partnership with the national Welcoming Cities and Counties Initiative.
“I’m glad that High Point will be highlighted for having positive human relations,” Heggins said. “I think we have more positives than negatives now. This award is for everyone who has been involved from the YWCA to all the others, and the human relations commission.”
The relationship with Welcoming America and Susan Downs-Karkos, director of the agency’s strategic partnerships, led to the recognition, Heggins said.
“As an international city, this is a great focus in terms of our human relations and economic development,” Heggins said. “I think we see each other differently now.”