Thirteen College of Southern Maryland (CSM) students were awarded scholarships totaling $4,750 to acknowledge their scholarly and creative projects presented during CSM’s Social Justice Week program in spring 2021. CSM student Beatriz Gonzales, of Waldorf, was awarded grand prize, winning a total scholarship of $1,200.

This year’s Social Justice Week focused on how the pandemic exacerbated inequalities related to race, poverty, gender and other factors. The all-virtual event included lectures, discussions and student presentations, as well as a documentary showcase, film review, book club reading, discussion with a playwright and economics events presented by CSM faculty.

“Social Justice Week engages students in authentic examination of the COVID-19 pandemic through a social justice lens,” said CSM Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. Distinguished Chair for Leadership Denise Gilmer-Knudson, lead organizer of CSM’s Social Justice Week annual program. “As we view events, like the pandemic, from multiple perspectives, it helps us understand that it has exacerbated existing inequalities in marginalized communities. The interaction between students and community leaders revealed a deeper awareness and sense of compassion.”

Out of 49 student projects presented during the week, Gonzales was awarded first place in the academic research category, which included a $700 scholarship award, and the grand prize overall, earning an additional $500 scholarship. Gonzales was honored for her project “Anti-Asian Racism and COVID-19.”

In academic research, Jayla Wilson, of Chesapeake Beach, was awarded second place ($500) and Hannah Tucker, of Huntingtown, was awarded third ($200). Honorable mention awards went to Emilee Bernd, of Leonardtown, Rachelle Sams, of Mechanicsville, and Hayli Tucker, of Huntingtown ($50 each).

In the literary arts category, Sarah Meador, of Chesapeake Beach, was awarded first place and a $700 scholarship for her poem “We called it Spring Break.”

Second place in literary arts went to Abbi Dampier, of Great Mills, ($500) and third to Ma’Isah Sesay-Dixon, of La Plata, ($200), with honorable mentions awarded to Monique Randolph, of La Plata, and Meckenzi Moran, of Lusby ($50 each).

In the visual and performing arts category, Alizza Damaso, of Lexington Park, was awarded first place and a $700 scholarship. Jeanne Franchesca Dela Cruz, of Waldorf, was awarded second place honors ($500).

This year’s scholarship awardees produced impressive work in academic research, literary arts and the visual and performing arts, exploring the interplay between the COVID-19 global pandemic and the lived experience of people disparately impacted by the virus, Gilmer-Knudson said. For more about these CSM student projects, visit, https://www.csmd.edu/about/diversity/sjw-scholarship-finalists.html.

Social Justice Week’s keynote address, “COVID’s Impact on Communities in Southern Maryland,” was given this year by Health Officer for Charles County Dr. Dianna E. Abney, from the Charles County Department of Health.

“It’s important that we look at this from a social justice lens and we look at it from an equity lens when we’re figuring out how to fight COVID-19,” Abney said. “The pandemic has showed us when one group is vulnerable, we’re all vulnerable.”

Abney’s and several other lectures from the event are available online. To listen to Abney’s presentation, visit https://youtu.be/USWKQKyw4sU.

To listen to “The Pandemic’s Impact on the Homeless Community,” presented by Lifestyles Executive Director Sandy Washington, visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OE9cPPLGcn4&ab_channel=CSMDTube. “Consequences of the Pandemic – Mental Illness, Substance Abuse and Treatment Options,” presented by Calvert County Behavioral Health Licensed Master Social Workers Casey Vendetti and Veronica Rivers is available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7EkK9d41_g8. And “COVID-19 and the Criminal Justice System,” presented by Southern Maryland Criminal Justice Academy Captain and Director Bobby Jones is available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BAFXbioCRb8.

The colleges’ Social Justice Week 2021 programwas hosted byCSM’s Equity and Inclusive Diversity Office, Global Initiatives Committee, Thomas V. “Mike” Miller Center for Leadership,Student Life Department and the faculty and staff of CSM’s Social Justice Day Committee.

For more about CSM and special programs like Social Justice Week, visit www.csmd.edu.


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