NORMAL — Three Bloomington residents and three Normal residents are the final nominees for the Twin City human relations commissions’ annual Martin Luther King Jr. awards.
Three high school students from each community also are in the running for the annual “I Have a Dream” youth award.
Normal Human Relations Commission adult nominees are Takesha Stokes, Mary Aplington and Paul Bushnell. Youth nominees are Xavier Robinson, Traevon Parnell and Likhita Kalla, all students at Normal Community High School.
Bloomington Human Relations Commission adult nominees are Keith Baker, Regina Johnson and David Bentlin. Youth nominees are Radiance Campbell and Sanskriti Khurana, students at NCHS, and Ricardo Cortez de la Cruz, a student at University High School.
Winners will be announced at the Martin Luther King Jr. luncheon at 1 p.m. Jan. 18 at the Marriott Hotel and Conference Center. Tickets are available from commission members, at Normal and Bloomington city halls and at eventbrite.com.
Sally Heffernan, assistant to the city manager in Normal, said it took more than one vote by the Normal commission before a winner was chosen.
“It was a difficult decision,” she said. “We had absolutely qualified people.”
Normal had extended its nomination deadline because of an initial low turnout.
Ernestine Jackson of Bloomington’s human resources/community relations department said the Bloomington commission had six nominations for each award. Members narrowed the field in each category.
Baker is founder and head coach of the Bloomington-Normal Titans boys basketball teams and a two-time coach for the annual Back 2 School Jam. He started Cub Scout Pack at Woodhill Towers in 1997 and served as a Cub and Boy Scouts troop leader. He is a life member of Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity.
Johnson plays a key role coordinating the Back to School Alliance Project that collects school supplies for low-income children. She also works with the West Bloomington Revitalization Project and volunteers with the Sigma Gamma Rho sorority youth symposium.
Bentlin is a longtime advocate and educator for basic human rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender citizens. He has served on a variety of boards including McLean County AIDS Task Force, Bloomington Human Relations Commission, Illinois State University LGBT/Queer Studies and Service Institute.
Stokes has been a tutor, mentor, program assistant, driver and teen pageant organizer for the Boys & Girls Club and also is active in Mount Pisgah Baptist Church, including its food pantry.
Aplington, a counselor at Bloomington Junior High School, was instrumental in starting a diversity club and other activities that promote acceptance, mutual support and awareness of diverse needs and cultures.
Bushnell, a retired Illinois Wesleyan University professor, was active in the civil rights movement and introduced a course on Afro-American history at IWU. He also contributed to the Black History Project and served on the McLean County Head Start board for 44 years.