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Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Scholarship Awarded

For The Heights

Published: Sunday, February 12, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 18:01

MLK 2/13/12

Daniel Lee / Heights Editor

On Friday, Feb. 10, Boston College held its annual presentation of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Scholarship in Robsham Theater. Sandra Dickson, CSON '13, was this year's winner.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the award that began with a bequest from Dr. Donald Brown, then-director of AHANA student programs, who in 1981—before Martin Luther King Day had even become a national holiday—scheduled a yearly dinner in honor of King's memory and established a full academic scholarship for the recipient's senior year.

The scholarship itself awards an applicant of African descent who excels in the classroom and exemplifies King's enduring spirit and legacy. The committee and ceremony have grown in size and notoriety in recent years, with the ceremony becoming a much-celebrated event within the BC community and the committee being represented by a far greater portion of staff, administrators, provosts, and other faculty.

This year's ceremony, punctuated by the theme of forging a path toward economic justice, featured a host of musical selections and was headlined by several influential and accomplished speakers. The Honorable Darcel D. Clark, BC '83, was the first-ever recipient of the MLK scholarship and went on to a career in law spanning 25 years, including 12 years as a lawyer and 13 as a Bronx County Supreme Court justice. Following remarks made by the 2011 award recipient Angela Donkor, A&S '12, the keynote speaker, Charles Ogletree, the Jesse Climenko Professor of Law and executive director of the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute at Harvard Law School, gave his address. Having had the honor of teaching both Michelle and Barack Obama, he urged all of the applicants to embody the mantra "lift as we climb," meaning that we all have an obligation to lift others up just as King did. King, he said, had the dream, but called on them to develop a plan to put actions to words. Finally, he stressed that, just as Thurgood Marshall did in the 1960s, every MLK applicant and award-winner alike succeeded in opening up a door they knew they could not go through so that one day someone else could.

Ultimately, 22 students applied for the award, 10 were interviewed for the top prize, and five finalists were selected. Tracy Affuko represented BC at Teach for America's Rising Leaders Summit last year and was this year's Logistics Coordinator for the event. She also volunteered as a tutor and mentor to high school students at the Cambridge Housing Authority. Adizah Eghan, A&S '13, won the Amanda Houston Fellowship to travel to Ajmer, India to raise awareness among the GLBTQ community, and served as an ESL tutor to Somali refugees in Roxbury through 4Boston. Charissa Jones, A&S '13, went on the Arrupe service immersion trip to Ecuador and also serves as a research assistant for James Olufowote, a professor in the communication department. Malika Weekes, CSON '13, serves as an undergraduate research fellow helping professor Judith Vessey design an Honors Program in Nursing, and also helped deliver basic health care to Boston's homeless population.

Dickson, a student in the nursing school from Newark, N.J. earned the award. Along with being a research assistant for Allysa Harris, a professor in CSON, and examining the effect of urban literature on adolescents and researching refugees from Darfur, she also coordinates an outreach program for AHANA nursing students, served her PULSE placement with the Samaritans suicide hotline, and participates in numerous other BC clubs and programs. In her acceptance speech, she emphasized that it is her goal to be "a peaceful agent of positive change, yet persistent for equality."

As Dickson noted, each and every candidate will triumph throughout their lives in "lighting a candle wherever there is darkness in the world."

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