ALLIANCE, Ohio – Three awards were presented during the 26th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Keynote Address and Award ceremony held on Thursday at the University of Mount Union.
The annual award ceremony recognizes community members, a member of the Mount Union faculty and a student who exemplifies the values and principles Dr. King lived by. The winners of the awards are people who actively promote racial harmony, advocate for social justice and foster inclusiveness within the community.
Lieutenants Matthew and Debra Hamilton, commanders of the Alliance Salvation Army, were presented with the MLK community award by Dr. Kate Carnell, director of student involvement and leadership at Mount Union. Carnell nominated the Hamiltons for the award based on their continuous work and constant support of the Alliance community.
Through their work with the Salvation Army, they provide food, clothing and a free pantry to members of the Community along with providing hundreds of families with gifts and supplies for a Christmas meal each year.
“Just like Martin Luther King,” Matthew said. “We give our glory to God.”
“We thank the community for everything they do for us as well,” Debra said.
The second award presented was the MLK Staff award. Abby Honaker Schroeder received the award for her work as the Director of the Regula Center for Public Service and Civic Engagement. The award was presented by John Meyer, entrepreneur in residence at Mount Union, who spoke on the impact Schroeder has on campus and in the community.
In her time at Mount Union, she has organized numerous projects to help the Mount Union students and staff give back to the Alliance community. One of the most successful projects she organizes is the Annual MLK Day of Service held every January.
“I am honored to be recognized, but nothing I do would be possible without my students, colleagues or family,” Schroeder said. “I am fortunate to have them, an institution that fosters community and a community that not only accepts the initiatives I am part of but furthers them through ongoing support.”
The final award presented was the MLK Student Award which was given to Brianna Boehlke ’19, a history major from Uniontown. Her friend Thomas Wines ’19, a biology major from East Canton, presented the award to Boehlke and explained her passion and commitment to helping others is what lead him to nominate her for the award. She inspires others with her dedication to volunteering which, in turn, encourages them to become involved as well.
Boehlke also received a $500 book scholarship from the brothers of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity during the awards.
“I’m incredibly excited,” Boehlke said. “I cried. It’s amazing that so many incredible people recognize what I do.”
Along with the awards, the night featured Mark Kabban as the keynote speaker. Kabban is the founder of Yalla San Diego, a non-governmental organization that strives to strengthen the social cohesion of refugee youth in the United States. Yalla is the only Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) college preparatory program in California.
The program allows young refugees to mix their passion for soccer with an education that helps to lead them to a college education. To date, the graduates of Yalla have earned over $5 million in scholarships for college. Over 2,000 students have taken part in the program with 88 percent accepted directly into state and private universities with 60% pursuing a STEM degree.
Kabban’s address centered around three points that he wanted the audience to take away in order to encourage social change. He recognizes that many of the issues that were relevant during King’s life are still relevant today. Kabban also believes that the generation to lead the change are the younger generations.
The first point he addressed was “own your identity.” He believes it is important for each person to recognize who they are and what they believe in order for them to address the biases they might have towards others.
The second point he gave was to know the story. Often times, people just listen to one side without questioning it. He believes it is important to find out more about the topic and address the narrative as a whole and not just one side.
“We have to be thinking intensely and critically,” Kabban said.
The final point he made was proximity. He believes a person has to get close to the topic and really try to understand it before a change can happen.
It was only when Kabban chose to get closer to the subject and the children that he was helping in his program and learn their stories that he knew what he was supposed to do with his life. He wanted to help them to have a better life and have the opportunity for the education they deserved.
“You have to take the time to truly understand and see what is already there,” Kabban said.
He encouraged the audience to look around their own communities and find the people there that need help. Refugees aren’t just in other countries, they are in the US and they are in need of assistance as well.
The ceremony ended with a reception held in the lobby of the Giese Center for the Performing Arts.