For immediate release | June 3, 2024

Tom C. Clark High School Awarded ALA’s 2024 Jaffarian Award for Freedom Walk Program

CHICAGO — The American Library Association (ALA) has awarded its 2024 Sara Jaffarian School Library Program Award to Tom C. Clark High School in San Antonio, Texas for its Freedom Walk program.

The $5,000 Jaffarian Award, supported by ALA’s Cultural Communities Fund, recognizes excellence in humanities programming in school libraries that serve grades K-12.

Selected from a competitive group of proposals, Tom C. Clark High School is the first high school to win the Jaffarian Award. This year, the Jaffarian Award included school libraries serving 9-12. Previously, only school libraries serving K-8 were eligible.

In the face of legislative threats and scrutiny against public school libraries and access to resources, Clark High School’s winning program centered on the freedom to read and engaged the community to understand the fundamental rights of students to access a diverse range of information and literature in their school library.

In 2023, Clark High School librarian, Lucy Podmore, redesigned the school’s traditional observance of Banned Books Week into a Freedom to Read Week, introducing the Freedom Walk, an all-encompassing event for students.

Collaborating with social studies teachers to align with curriculum, the Freedom Walk occurred during student lunch periods and comprised of five stations centered around various censorship issues: 1st Amendment rights, censorship terms, school district collection development and reconsideration policies, books as windows and mirrors, and voter registration/education. The interactive stations gave nearly 500 students the opportunity to reflect and learn about their own experiences with censorship through games and introspective prompts.

“The Freedom Walk stands as a vibrant example of how interactive and thoughtful programming can ignite engagement with critical societal issues among young people,” said Podmore. “The Freedom Walk is more than just an event; it's a catalyst for change, inspiring students to take an active role in their communities and in the broader democratic process.”

This year’s Jaffarian Award Committee was chaired by Anita Cellucci, library teacher, Westborough (Mass.) High School; Anne Link, K-5 media specialist, Bristol Elementary School, Webster Groves, Mo.; Carla Larsen, retired elementary school media specialist, South Washington County Schools Cottage Gove, Minn.; and Joe Zappitello, director, Harbor-Topky Public Library, Ashtabula, Ohio.

“The Award Committee was impressed by the emphasis on civil dialogue and the lasting student interest in the topics beyond the day of the event,” said Cellucci. “The level of collaboration with the community and the focus on censorship and advocacy made this a standout and relevant school program.”

The Jaffarian Award is administered by ALA’s Public Programs Office in cooperation with the American Association of School Librarians (AASL).

Applications for the 2025 award will open in February 2025. Application information, award guidelines and a list of previous winners are available at

To stay up to date on award and grant offerings from ALA’s Public Programs Office, sign up for ALA’s Programming Librarian newsletter.

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About the American Library Association

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Hannah Arata

Communications Specialist

American Library Association

Public Programs Office