Today an Indian grandmother is standing up to corporate greed and government harassment to assert the sovereign rights of the Western Shoshone. A 30 year-old Latina is giving low-wage immigrants the tools they need to fight for decent affordable housing. A brave woman is working with her sisters to haul their Georgia town out of its racist past and into the 21st century. And a former corrections officer is welcoming parolees back to their old neighborhood to rebuild their lives and their community.

They are among thousands of extraordinary men and women are working to fix what’s broken in America.

Since 1988, through a nationwide search and nomination process, the Petra Foundation has identified these and other unsung heroes who deserve recognition for their distinctive contributions to the rights, autonomy and dignity of others.

Often at risk and lacking a safety net of personal privilege or institutional support, Petra Fellows work at I.C.E. detention centers and at toxic waste sites. They sound the alarm at deadly desert border crossings and stand watch at the corners of our mean streets. They insist on healthcare for migrant laborers, violin lessons for public school students and educational opportunities for juveniles in jail. And day after day, year after year, they hit the road, work the phones, show up, stand up and speak out against hate groups and handgun wholesalers, corrupt officials and unresponsive bureaucrats—winning victories large and small.

If you know a grassroots leader who fits the criteria below, please submit their nomination for a Petra award. If you know of others who might make a nomination, please spread the word.

With your help, the Petra Foundation will continue to champion leaders working on the frontlines of the struggle for justice. In addition to a no-strings financial award, the foundation will publicize their innovative models for change, foster their collaborations and welcome them to a national network of leaders who are working across the divides of age, ethnicity, class and issue to build a more just society.

Nomination Guidelines

  • Individuals nominated for a Petra Foundation Award should display a combination of activism and thought, force of character, independence of judgment, and clarity of expression.
  • The nominee’s activities should be devoted either to the cause of racial equality, with special emphasis on Native Americans and people of color; or to the autonomy of persons, groups, families, and communities; or to freedom of speech, expression, and thought.
  • The nominee should be someone who is not widely recognized, who does not have personal privilege or a strong institutional base of support and who has demonstrated a capacity to grow, overcome obstacles and make a significant contribution to human freedom by leading, teaching, or otherwise helping others.
  • Please note that nominations should be submitted without the knowledge of the nominees. They will be carefully researched based in part on the references provided with the nomination materials.
  • Most Petra Fellows work in the United States. If you are considering a foreign nominee, please contact us before submitting the nomination.

Download Nomination Form

Microsoft Word Format (DOC: 34 KB / 2 pages)
Adobe Acrobat Format (PDF: 87 KB / 2 pages)

Please complete the form by March 3, 2014 and either e-mail to or print and mail to:

The Petra Foundation

66 Gloucester Street

Arlington, MA 02476