Sociology major Toiell Washington and economics and philosophy major Rhaea Heffner have been awarded the 2021 Salem State University Social Justice Divestment scholarship and the Ken Saro-Wiwa Climate Justice scholarship, respectively. Both students will be presented with their $1,000 awards at the geography and sustainability department’s awards night on April 30, 2021.
Speaking on the two awardees, Professor Noel Healy celebrated the “two amazing scholar-activists.” He stated that both students represented the best of Salem State and played leadership roles in advocating for the voices of the oppressed and future generations.
Toiell Washington is co-founder of the community organization “Black Boston,” which organized a Boston BlackLivesMatter protest that resulted in 20,000 people in the summer of 2021. Toiell is also an active participant of Bold, Educated, Empowered, Sisters, which is an affinity group for women of color on Salem State's campus. She is also a representative for Black, Brown, and Proud, a movement on campus that meets with leadership to discuss ways to accommodate Black students of color. Boston.com recently reported on her powerful advocacy and ingenuity.
Rhaea Heffner follows in the footsteps of great student climate activists at Salem State. Rhea has served as a hub coordinator of the Salem Sunrise, worked as a fellow for the Senator Edward Markey reelection campaign, and played a leadership roll in organizing phone banking events for progressive climate candidates across the country. Sunrise Salem successfully got congressman Seth Moulton to sign onto the “no fossil fuel” pledge.
The two scholarships form part of the $57,000 that has accrued since Professor Noel Healy and supporters of fossil fuel divestment pushed Salem State University to divest from fossil fuels in 2018.