Jorge Mejia, MCAS ’19, was awarded the Archbishop Oscar A. Romero Scholarship at an award ceremony on Saturday night. The dinner featured Bolivian cuisine and culture, as well as performances by Caporales de San Simon New England. Juan A. Arteaga, Boston College ’99, received the Rev. John A. Dineen, S.J., Hispanic Alumni Community Service Award.
Mejia, a political science major with minors in Latin American Studies and history, is a research fellow at the Global Leadership Institute and the Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life. He is also involved with the Organization of Latin American Affairs, and in the summer of 2017 worked at the West Bronx Housing (WBH) and Neighborhood Resource Center, working with low-income tenants.
“I hope we’ll take a moment to step back and consider how might we better envision, how might we re-envision, our lives so that we are better people, so we are doing more for our fellow citizens, residents, members of the Boston College community—people who are part not only of the United States, but of our world,” said University President Rev. William P. Leahy, S.J., who presented the scholarship to Mejia.
This is the scholarship’s 26th year being awarded, and serves as a celebration of Romero’s life. The committee narrows down the applicants to three finalists from a large pool, based on academic achievement, leadership, community service, and involvement in the Latino community.
“On this very day, March 24 in 1980, Archbishop Romero was assassinated,” Leahy said. “We are here tonight, and we remember him. I hope we also use this occasion and all the examples and words we have heard of encouragement to rededicate ourselves to those values and those commitments that animated his life.”
Eve Spangler, a sociology professor, who introduced Mejia, talked about how he was determined to leave his hometown of the Bronx when he was growing up. But his worldview changed as he encountered other BC students with a passion for social justice, inspiring him to seek “the conversion of career into a vocation,” as he wrote in his scholarship essay.
Mejia’s work at the WBH imparted on the him the importance of the human dimension in public policy.
“This served as a kind of capstone experience where he integrated the formational and research experience he was having at Boston College,” Spangler said.
“He realized that he could never leave the Bronx behind.”
Mejia believes his gifts come with a responsibility to work for the marginalized. Calling himself a scholar, global citizen, and child of God, he pointed to the importance of using himself to combat wrongs in the Bronx.
“To me, the Romero Scholarship is not a spotlight, but a reminder,” Mejia said. “A reminder of my and our duty as humans to realize that we are agents of history, and in our hands are the tools to rectify injustices.”
The University will fund 75 percent of Mejia’s tuition next year. The two other finalists, Roberto Garcia and Kimberly Lozano, both MCAS ’19, will split the 25 percent tuition scholarship. The three students will also divide a 5,000 dollar gift certificate to the BC Bookstore.
Lozano volunteers with the Carpenter’s Shop and Sacred Heart Community, as well as holding leadership roles in the Organization of Latin American Affairs and the Bowman Advocates for Inclusive Culture. She is majoring in international studies and plans to apply for a Fulbright Scholarship next year.
Garcia is pursuing a degree in applied psychology and human development in the Lynch School of Education. He has worked as an Orientation Leader and is a recipient of the Advanced Study Grant.
In his acceptance speech, Mejia praised his professors, mentors, and friends at BC, who helped evolve out of being an insecure freshman. He also thanked his parents, who were undocumented immigrants until last year, for the example they set.
“They have showed me the definition of grit, resilience, and excellence,” he said.
Arteaga was awarded the Romero Scholarship while attending the University. He then went on to attend Columbia Law School. His speech centered around Dineen’s legacy and how best to honor it, which he said can be done by getting involved in the immigration debate.
“I know what side of the debate Fr. Dineen and Oscar Romero would have been on,” Arteaga said. “In accepting this award, I pledge to work just as hard as they would to ensure that this debate results in an immigration system that shows respect for our laws, but also shows compassion for those individuals living under the laws.”
Featured Image by Kaitlin Meeks / Photo Editor