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Congratulations to 2023 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Leadership Award Recipients

The Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Leadership Award is presented annually for outstanding and significant contributions to the causes of freedom, justice, and equality. The SSU MLK, Jr. Celebration Collaborative recognizes again the campus community members who were selected to receive the MLK Leadership Award.

Honored on January 23, 2023, at the 33rd Annual Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Convocation, the names of these leaders will be inscribed on the plaque for this prestigious award displayed in the Ellison Campus Center. 

Social Work Professor Elspeth Slayter was named as this year's faculty award recipient. She serves on the Racial Equity and Justice Initiative; a regional campus-based effort to work in teams to address systemic racism and advance racial educational equity. Previous local community service engagements for Dr. Slayter include work with the Peabody Council on Aging, Children’s Friend and Family, and the Northeast Arc. Previous national community service engagements for have involved work with the National Association of Social Workers Disability Policy Panel, the National Council on Disability and Persons with Disabilities of the Council on Social Work Education, and the National Association of Social Workers’ Task Force on Maximizing Social Worker Safety.

She shared that "In the past year, much of my racial justice community service work has been within the national social work community under the auspices of Social Work Education Acts (#SWEduActs)...In choosing speakers for a teach-in, our group chose to center the voices of social work scholars of color who are experts on police brutality and structural racism, as a way to lift up their voices for our community, a community that is primarily White and often needs to do better about listening to our colleagues of color."

One of her nominators wrote that she "recently co-led a strengths-based analysis of the experiences of students in the department to disaggregate positive experiences (e.g., grades of A or B; student preparedness for internships; co-curricular leadership experiences; study abroad) related to student demographics. These findings are being used to examine differential student experiences from an asset-based perspective to challenge assumptions and to learn lessons about what experiences help students succeed."

Emmanuel Quiroz Martinez '23, Higher Education in Student Affairs MEd., candidate, was chosen as the graduate student MLK leadership award recipient. One of his nominators wrote that "Manny is the program manager of our Educator Scholars of Color (ESOC) program in the McKeown School of Education...The goal of the ESOC program is to recruit and retain students of color in McKeown’s 4+1 teacher preparation program...His impact on the program, and most importantly, the students in our program has been HUGE." Another nominator wrote, "As a result of his work, the students are more cohesive and connected and are greatly enjoying their experience as an Education major, connecting to their cultural strengths as students of color and are contributing to the school and local school districts as culturally competent educators. The program has taken its next step forward because of what Manny has brought to it."

Michael Corley '23, major in Media & Communication with a concentration in journalism, and a double minor in English and History, was selected among undergraduates to receive this award. Nominators wrote, "Michael embodies what Salem State represents and is the most determined to help others and see the most positive outcomes when they apply themselves...Not only was he an Admissions Ambassador, a Berry IOP fellow, and SGA President, but he created and saw to fruition a number of notable initiatives that will impact many students on this campus for years to come. This year, Michael led a charge to establish a land and labor acknowledgment for Salem State that was long overdue. Working with Provost Silva, local Indigenous leaders, and various other stakeholders, Michael ensured that Native students would not only feel welcomed, acknowledged, and supported at SSU, but was able to secure scholarship funds as well! Michael has continually voiced his passion for making SSU a more inclusive environment-- always pushing for visibility has been a driving force for him. Another project that he has moved forward for proposal is the renaming of Viking Hall to Charlotte Forten Hall, in order to put the name of SSU's first Black graduate front-and-center on our campus."

Elisa Castillo, Associate Dean of Students for Wellness, was chosen as the administrator/staff award recipient. Her nominator wrote, "Elisa has been a steadfast advocate for students and social justice throughout her career at Salem State. When she was the Director of Counseling & Health Services, she saw the need for creating an expanded and more holistic approach to student health and well-being which led to the creation of the Wellness area. As the Assistant Dean for Wellness, she co-led the university's response to the COVID-19 pandemic, keeping our campus community informed, safe and healthy. As the Associate Dean of Students for Wellness, she is one of the leaders charting the course for the university's emergence as an Hispanic-Serving Institution. Her efforts in this capacity are guiding the university to enhance servingness to become a truly Hispanic-serving, rather than an Hispanic-enrolling institution. In these roles, she has led with courage and compassion; valuing inclusion and community, advocating for health and well-being, and championing student support and success."

Hope Watt-Bucci, '96G, is this year's alumni award recipient. "Hope is the founder and president of North Shore Pride...A person who has dedicated her personal and professional life to the LGBTQ+ community and beyond, Hope Watt-Bucci is a staunch advocate in this area and many others. Under her leadership, North Shore Pride hosts myriad events throughout the course of the year dedicated to raising awareness and funds, to support organizations on the North Shore that work with the LGBTQ+ community. Some of these celebrations include the North Shore Pride Parade and Vendor Festival, drag shows, community panels, interfaith services, and much more.

Throughout pandemic life, like many others, Hope and the team at North Shore Pride had to move their entire operation online to make sure the needs of the community were met, and they did so brilliantly. The North Shore Pride website contains relevant links for resources for all, including disability services, geriatric, medical care, political & non-governmental organizations, safety & suicide prevention, addiction & recovery, and much more. Further, due to her continued advocacy work, the Alliance of Salem State named their annual alumni award in her honor."

Congratulations to each and every member of the 2023 Class of MLK Leadership Award recipients. Coordinated by the SSU MLK, Jr. Celebration Collaborative.

Cheryl Price and Keja Valens
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