If you’ve ever been to Ellis Island, you can almost put yourself in the shoes of immigrants finally arriving in New York after a long journey. 

These immigrants didn’t bring much with them, except their hopes and dreams.  And for most of them, this proved to be all they needed to create the life they always imagined.    These immigrants exemplified qualities in their personal and professional life that helped to build New York’s rich history and preserve its wonderful diversity.

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On May 9, 2009 at New York Harbor, a ceremony will be held to honor an American who illustrates these same qualities as the Ellis Island immigrants. 

The honoree will be presented with one of America’s most exalted awards, the Ellis Island Medal  of Honor.  This award is presented every year by the National Ethnic Coalition of Organizations (NECO)  to an American who has made a difference in our world through their communal efforts and contributions to humanity.  This year’s recipient is Cal State San Bernadino’s professor Allen “Ali” Cayir.  Professor Cayir’s contributions have included raising $3 million for the University’s College of Education building, helping to fund and establish the College’s multi-cultural lab and raising fund to construct an all-girls school in Afganistan.

This will be the 27th year that NECO will honor its recipient with the Ellis Island Medal of Honor. 

Past recipients have included prominent individuals such as Rosa Parks, Norman Schwarzkopf and Joe DiMaggio. The Gala’s attendants will include well-known figures such as Gloria and Emilio Estefan, John Podesta, Sandra Lee and New York’s famous  3D pop artist Charles Fazzino,  who is the Official Artist for the 2009 Ellis Island Medal of Honor Gala.  Fazzino’s artwork illustrates the vivid imagination and hope for a new beginning that immigrants of Ellis Island felt upon arriving in New York.

To learn more about Ellis Island, check out the History Channels Spotlight on Ellis Island featuring a virtual tour, a timeline, images and video.ellis_island_image