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Scholarship Recipients Honor MLK’s Legacy

A student winner of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. annual scholarship discussed ways the scholarship funds will stimulate her academic journeys inspired by MLK’s enduring work.
COD Newsroom
(from left to right) COD president Brian Caputo, scholarship recipient Alexis DeAnna Collins-Harris, Elizabeth Gómez de la Casa and David Swope pose for a picture.

Soon after honoring The Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s legacy during the January virtual commemoration, COD hosted the annual MLK Service and Scholarship Award event in the MAC. The event honored three COD students who received the prestigious scholarship, with speeches from each of them discussing the positive impact of the scholarship and excerpts of their winning essays.

The competitive COD scholarship is awarded every year in January to three or four students who demonstrate academic and community service excellence. They are prompted to write an essay on how King’s ideals influence their life goals, and the $2,000 award helps to bolster their academic journeys based on these goals.

Of this year’s three winners, Alexis DeAnna Collins-Harris shared ways this scholarship will be particularly beneficial for her. She is a third-semester Nursing student who works in a clinic, as well as the Vice President of the Student Nurses’ Association at COD. Balancing these responsibilities with her pursuit of education is her priority, and the scholarship enables her to do so.

“The Martin Luther King, Jr. scholarship is extremely beneficial in several ways in my pursuit of attaining a nursing degree as a Black woman,” Collins-Harris said. “Scholarships provide valuable financial support that can help alleviate the burden of tuition fees and other educational expenses. This enables me to focus more on my studies and reduce the need for additional work or loans, allowing me to fully immerse myself in the nursing program.”

David Swope, manager for the Student Diversity, Equity and Inclusion department gave a speech at the MLK Scholarship event and also facilitated Black History Month events at COD. He spoke about the scholarship’s significance.

“The Dr. MLK, Jr. Scholarship Award and Recognition ceremony at College of DuPage is really a special time of teaching, learning and awareness,” Swope said. “That is what we honor at College of DuPage with the Dr. MLK, Jr. scholarships – wonderful humans, our students, with goals to have a positive impact on society’s landscape. We believe that through our collaborative spirit at COD, we can continue to strive to be a catalyst, even in challenging times, for equity, where students know they belong and are comfortable to thrive, learn and be their best selves.”

Swope referenced how COD strives to provide opportunities, especially economic stability, for its students through these kinds of scholarships. Particularly for students who may face challenges due to socioeconomic status or race, these scholarships and other academic support programs are integral.

Collins-Harris described the importance of earning this scholarship and having the opportunity to meet many other students, faculty, and academic community leaders at the award ceremony. She stated the scholarship signifies a wider community at COD that promotes equity and provides students with mentorship through their journeys.

“Scholarships often provide access to unique networking opportunities,” she said. “By connecting with other scholarship recipients, mentors, or alumni, I can establish valuable professional relationships, expanding my network within the nursing field. These connections can be instrumental in finding internship opportunities, securing future job placements, and receiving guidance from experienced individuals.”

Collins-Harris speaks at the award ceremony. (Photo by COD Newsroom)

Collins-Harris applied for the scholarship last fall and was honored to be awarded it, based on her academic success and application essay. She stated that the accolade acknowledges her achievements and commitment to her education and enhances her professional profile.

“Receiving the Martin Luther King, Jr. scholarship boosted my confidence, by affirming my academic abilities and potential,” she said. “This increased my self-assurance which motivates me to excel and persevere through challenges that may arise during my nursing program.” 

Collins-Harris also referenced ways that the scholarship recipients all gave speeches describing their commitment to encouraging equitable practices in their respective fields. In the healthcare field, Black women are especially impacted by inadequate healthcare, whether through lack of access to affordable resources or due to implicit racism in the medical field. Implementing solutions to societal problems such as this is one aspect of the MLK scholarship that is meant to inspire students.

“As a Black woman in nursing, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.‘s legacy of advocating for racial equality serves as a powerful inspiration for the purpose of the scholarship,” Collins-Harris said. “His work highlights the importance of breaking down barriers and creating opportunities for individuals from marginalized communities to pursue their dreams and excel in their chosen fields. The scholarship honors Dr. King’s commitment to justice and equal rights by providing support and resources to empower Black students in nursing, ensuring they have the chance to make meaningful contributions to healthcare and society.”

As a social leader and college expert on MLK, Swope was adamant about reflecting on the importance of King and other Black Civil Rights leaders’ impact in creating social equality in the United States.

“Dr. King was a unique visionary with aspirations for America to be what it claims to be; a place of liberty, justice and progress, which in many instances unfortunately is not always the case,” Swope commented. “But King saw and believed something that I do not believe the founding fathers saw, and that is, that all people are humans with desires and ambitions that can prove positive if positioned in an equitable society.”

Swope explained how these values are integral to creating equal opportunities for their students at COD, especially through academic support programs and resources, like this scholarship.

“The students who received the Dr. MLK Jr. scholarships represent the dream that King had when he said ‘I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal,’” Swope said, alluding to King’s 1963 Washington D.C. speech. “These great students and many others at COD are shining examples of what it means to have vision and hopefully the MLK scholarships will only serve to further propel their life’s work and inspire others to engage in these same opportunities at COD.”

For students interested in applying to the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. scholarship next year, visit the COD academic works scholarship website. Deadlines for the scholarship are typically on Nov. 1.

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