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Leaders Matter

When I read Yonty Friesem’s 2017 introduction to the special issue of the Journal of Media Literacy Education on media literacy and disability, I knew that someday, somehow, Yonty’s incredible leadership skills would be recognized and celebrated. In the article, Yonty provided a variety of ideas that greatly extended my own understanding of both media literacy AND disability. But Yonty didn’t just study the topic as a researcher. In so many practices of teaching and learning and communication in daily life, Yonty embodied the kind of sensitivity to and respect for difference that is at the heart of the phrase “diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice.”

With undergraduate students, Yonty’s classroom provides many opportunities for democratic pedagogy and power sharing. As a leader, Yonty empowers others to be their best selves. As a Co-Director of the Media Education Lab, Yonty is now imagining the future of the Media Education Lab for the next 20 years, which is a most exciting (and inclusive) enterprise. By being fully engaged with a variety of practitioners, scholars, and advocates, Yonty actively promotes inclusive practices that advance the media literacy skills of all, inspiring many new leaders including Samantha Stanley, Iglika Ivanova, Michelle Ciccone, Kelsey Greene, Jocelyn Young, Devina Sarawatay, and others.

As winner of the 2023 Media Literacy Community Award, Yonty is honored for making significant contributions to the local, national, and international media education community through contributing time, talent, and action. For Yonty, that includes leading a statewide advocacy organization, building an online community, and leading professional development programs. The spirit of generosity and collaboration that Yonty embraces is beyond remarkable — it’s a gift to the whole field! After 12 years of hard work and dedication here in the United States, I’m so proud of Yonty’s many accomplishments– and I look forward to what the future may hold. Thank you to Michelle Ciulla Lipkin and NAMLE for honoring this amazing human being whose work has so greatly advanced our field!

By Renee Hobbs,