At a celebration of the 32nd Annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Committee Scholarship Ceremony, Patience Marks, A&S ’15, was selected out of five finalists to receive a scholarship of $20,000.
The scholarship is awarded annually to a Boston College junior who demonstrates strong academic performance, extracurricular involvement, and community service, as well as the intention to work toward intercultural communication and social equity.
The Martin Luther King, Jr. Scholarship Committee was formed in 1982, intially with a $500 award. That amount doubled in 1983 to a $1,000 scholarship. Currently, the recipient is awarded a $20,000 scholarship, and each of the other four finalists is awarded $3,000 toward his or her senior year tuition. Additionally, each student receives a $1,000 gift certificate to the BC Bookstore for the purchasing of textbooks, and a framed portrait of Martin Luther King, Jr., originally drawn by a former member of the committee.
The four finalists were Gaetan Civil, A&S ’15; Mohamed Diop, A&S ’15; Vanessa Omoroghomwan, A&S ’15; and Cusaj Thomas, A&S ’15. Each student, including Marks, was introduced with a video of a personal reading of his or her application essay.
In her essay, Marks wrote, “[My minority status] has never stopped me from being the change I want to see in the world.”
After receiving the scholarship, Marks said, “I knew that if I lost to any one of [the other finalists], I would be happy, because they’re all fighting for the same purpose.”
The 2013 scholarship recipient, Philip McHarris, A&S ’14, spoke about his experiences as a recipient and his work toward his own goals.
“While the pursuit can be quite arduous, I can say the Martin Luther King, Jr. Scholarship has helped me in a myriad of ways,” he said. McHarris helped review the applications for the 2014 scholarship. “I can sincerely say that these finalists are all phenomenal,” he said.
The ceremony featured two speakers-University President Rev. William P. Leahy, S.J., and John H. Jackson, president and CEO of The Schott Foundation for Public Education-and a performance by Voices of Imani, a student vocal group.
“We are to draw from the strength, from the example, from the life of Dr. King,” Leahy said. “We are challenged to act as bridges, as bridge builders. And we are challenged to act as ambassadors.”
Jackson, who delivered the keynote address, talked about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s work and the importance of recognizing struggles and purpose in life.
“When we talk about leaders, we only talk about the highlights,” he said. “We never talk about the places and spaces they existed in often. The places we’ve all been to, the places of weariness … We know that Dr. King and others have all been there. But they gave us a model of how to act when we get there. At some point, we’ve got to find a level of faith and understanding that will pull us through those lonely moments.”
Jackson also stressed the importance of recognizing not only certain students, but all students, as having a purpose and value in life.
“We never know who’s in what position,” he said. “So our challenge is to represent all. Each of us has been given a calling, and each of those callings represent a larger piece in the puzzle. I’m not here to tell you what your role is, because that’s part of your journey. But I am here to tell you that you play a very specific role.”
In addition to the annual scholarship, the committee also provides funding to freshmen, sophomores, and juniors for Advanced Study Grant projects that promote social justice and equality. This year, the recipients were Lucas Allen, A&S ’16; Malia Allen, A&S ’15; Ganapathiram Thangavel Arivudainambi, A&S ’16; Gavin Buckley, A&S ’16; Jessica Franco, A&S ’15; Natali Soto, CSOM ’14; and Victoria Torres-Vega, LSOE ’14.