2021 MLK Distinguished Service Award Winners Honored

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Recipients of UMass Lowell's Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Distinguished Service Awards were honored recently during a virtual ceremony.


Contacts for media: Nancy Cicco, 978-934-4944, Nancy_Cicco@uml.edu and Christine Gillette, 978-758-4664, Christine_Gillette@uml.edu

LOWELL, Mass. – Members of the UMass Lowell community whose work exemplifies the ideals advanced by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. were recognized by the university at a ceremony on Thursday, Jan. 28.

Now in their 10th year, UMass Lowell’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Distinguished Service Awards honor recipients for their commitment to social change, community service and engagement. Participants came together during the virtual event to celebrate MLK’s legacy and the achievements of the honorees. The award winners were:

  • Benedicta Agyemang-Brantuo of Worcester, a chemistry major with a minor in public health. Agyemang-Brantuo founded Advocates of Health Equity for Minorities, a UMass Lowell student group that works toward improved health outcomes for underserved populations. An Honors College student enrolled in the bachelor’s-to-master’s program, Agyemang-Brantuo is a senator in UMass Lowell’s Student Government Association, a mentor in one of the university’s living-learning communities, a student staff member in the UMass Lowell Career and Co-op Center and a participant in UMass Lowell’s DifferenceMaker student entrepreneurship program. As a student ambassador, she assists prospective students interested in enrolling in the university’s Kennedy College of Sciences.
  • Yahayra Michel of Lawrence, assistant teaching professor in UMass Lowell’s School of Criminology and Justice Studies. Beyond her classroom instruction, Michel is a volunteer mentor in UMass Lowell’s River Hawk Scholars Academy, a nationally recognized program that supports the success of more than 300 first-year students annually across all six of UMass Lowell’s schools and colleges. Michel also serves as an advisory board member for UMass Lowell’s Greeley Scholar for Peace Studies program, which presents events that feature renowned humanitarians and civil rights leaders along with other opportunities for community engagement. A first-generation college student and military veteran, Michel is a “triple River Hawk,” who holds UMass Lowell undergraduate degrees in psychology and criminal justice, along with a UMass Lowell master’s degree in criminal justice and criminology.

UMass Lowell Chancellor Jacquie Moloney congratulated the award winners and spoke about the university’s commitment to work toward greater equity and inclusion.

“I am filled with hope that the work that Dr. King inspired will carry on and we will move closer to fulfilling his dream. I am confident that our community – the UMass Lowell community of faculty, students, staff, alumni and friends – will serve as a shining light for others to follow,” Moloney said.

The event’s keynote remarks were offered by UMass Lowell graduate Adeja Crearer, a multimedia journalist and a TV producer at CNN headquarters in Atlanta, who received a bachelor’s degree in English with a concentration in journalism and a master’s in peace and conflict studies from the university. Crearer encouraged all to work within their communities to help achieve King’s vision.

“Progress isn’t automatic, nor is it inevitable. It requires leadership, sacrifice and passionate concern,” she said.

Also offering his congratulations to the award recipients was UMass Lowell’s Laurence Siegel, vice chancellor for student affairs and university events. Siegel, who came of age during the civil rights movement of the 1960s, reflected on the events of the past year and urged event participants to take up the cause of working toward social equality.

“Every single one of us must be an activist for change. Our students are the future of our society and what we all choose to do today, every single one of us, will have impacts for generations to come,” Siegel said.

Videos that depicted key moments in the history of the U.S. civil rights movement compiled by UMass Lowell’s Library Services staff were shown during the event and members of UMass Lowell’s art student and Black student unions produced a virtual art gallery of works inspired by King for the program.

UMass Lowell is a national research university offering its more than 18,000 students bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in business, education, engineering, fine arts, health, humanities, sciences and social sciences. UMass Lowell delivers high-quality educational programs and personal attention from leading faculty and staff, all of which prepare graduates to be leaders in their communities and around the globe. www.uml.edu