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Carrying On The Legacy: Alumni from the Martin Luther King Jr. Scholar Program Reflect On Their Experiences and Look to the Future

Written by Haley Davis and Mia Jackson '11

MLK Scholar Maria Gonzalez '08 volunteering at the Ithaca Sciencenter

The students selected for the Martin Luther King Jr. Scholar Program have big shoes to fill. They combine their undergraduate careers at Ithaca College with community service, a civil rights trip, and international excursions to expand their own worldviews. They also need to excel in their academics to maintain their scholarship, which ranges from $25,000 per year up to full tuition.

“As MLK scholars, we are seen as leaders on campus, especially when it comes to diversity or civil rights issues,” says Brian Saa ’08. “Living up to that standard made me a better person and leader.”

That standard continues after the flip of the tassel, too. These recent alumni have used their time as MLK scholars to guide them in developing meaningful careers after graduation. Jaylene Clark found her success off Broadway (see previous page); here’s what other MLK alums are up to.


MLK Scholar Elizabeth Espada '09

Elizabeth Espada '09

“Being an MLK scholar didn’t end when I graduated,” says Espada, who’s pursuing a master’s degree in speech-language pathology at Teachers College at Columbia University. Elizabeth often sees issues of diversity surface during her internship working with students with disabilities in a District 75 school in the Bronx. These range from students being placed in bilingual programs because they have a Latino last name to learning that a school wants to close a bilingual classroom and force students to receive English-only instruction.


Maria Gonzalez '08

As an MLK scholar, Gonzalez says, “I learned to become an activist for things I believe in. This became my motivating force in everything I’ve done after Ithaca”—like spending two years with Teach for America, then working as an adult literacy teacher and an ESL science tutor while finishing up a master’s degree in teaching English as a second language at Boston University.


MLK Scholar Brian Saa '08

Brian Saa '08

Now pursuing a career in screenwriting in Los Angeles, Saa was selected last year as one of 10 writers in the National Hispanic Media Coalition Writers Program, sponsored by ABC and NBC. The passions awakened in him through the MLK Scholar Program continue to show up in his work. “Through the scripts I write,” Saa says, “I address issues of diversity to this day.”



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