by Geoff Larcom, Published January 27, 2014
YPSILANTI – Jennifer Dumas, a junior majoring in public administration, has received Eastern Michigan University’s highest award for student public service.
Dumas this week received The Martin Luther King, Jr. Student Humanitarian Award, which is annually presented to a full-time EMU student who has shown a strong commitment to promoting respect and improving the quality of life for all people, consistent with the ideals of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Asia Yarbough, a freshman who plans to study social work, was also honored for the exceptional potential she has already shown in helping people. The two received their awards at EMU’s annual luncheon honoring the memory and legacy of Dr. King.
Dumas, an Ypsilanti resident who is minoring in social work, currently serves on the board of three community organizations: the Youth Arts Alliance!, SPARK-Brightmoor and EMU’s Nonprofit Leadership Alliance.
The Youth Arts Alliance! is dedicated to providing creative arts workshops for youth involved in the juvenile justice system. Dumas serves as the group’s events coordinator, overseeing workshops every Wednesday. SPARK-Brightmoor,based at a church in Detroit, provides children with a safe place every Friday to play, learn about nutrition and have a healthy meal. In working for the Nonprofit Leadership Alliance, Dumas arranges service projects and assists in bringing non-profit workers to speak to the EMU community. Dumas is also program coordinator at the Senior Center in Ann Arbor, where she assists with programs for the elderly each week.
“Serving my community has helped shape my character, broaden my outlook on life, and has provided me with many opportunities,” Dumas says. “I want to bless others with the resources I have and with the education I will obtain. I want to change the world.”
Yarbough, though only in her first year at EMU, was given special recognition for how much she’s already done to help people less fortunate. During high school she volunteered for numerous community service projects, including suicide prevention, anti-bullying, peer mediation and Young Women Making Washtenaw County Better.
Yarbough currently works with young girls, teaching them about respect, empowerment, effective communication and how they can become positive role models in their communities. She’ also involved with the Upward Bound Program, working to help high school students also realize their dreams of attending college.
“Occasionally, we come across students in whom we see a lot of potential,” said Keith Jason, co-chair of EMU’s MLK planning committee. “While reviewing applications, we saw this spirit of advocacy and humanitarianism (Yarbough) and wanted to encourage her to continue.”
Silvana Alfaro-Bordon, an honors major in psychology, received the Evans-Strand Diversity Award, which annually recognizes students for major contributions to the understanding and acceptance of diversity at EMU.
Alfaro-Bordon is currently completing over 60 hours of volunteer work by working as a conversation partner in the EMU Office of International Students Conversation Partner Program, working at the Ypsilanti Heritage of Healing organization that promotes Native American cancer awareness, and serving as a speaker and writer for the Women’s Center of Greater Lansing.
As part of her academic work, Alfaro-Bordon’s senior thesis examines whether the Eastern Pride and Identity Coalition panels have a direct influence on attitude change or increased acceptance of LGBT individuals by students at Eastern. EPIC is a group of students, faculty, staff and community members who visit classrooms to talk about their coming out stories, personal histories and religious beliefs regarding LGBT issues, along with family dynamics.
Alfaro-Bordon will share her results at the EMU Undergraduate Symposium in March and in a publication planned by the Center for the Study of Equality and Human Rights.
Recommendations from Alfaro-Bordon’s instructors applaud her contributions to other students’ understanding of diversity issues.
“Ms. Alfaro-Bordon embodies diversity within her own identity categories, her research, the educational dialogues in which she engages, and her career plans,” one instructor wrote. “She is a magnificent illustration of the hope that our campus and the world can have at increasing awareness, acceptance and equal rights of all.”
Justin Snyder, a senior at Lincoln Consolidated High School, was named the winner of Eastern’s annual MLK high school essay contest. Snyder, a member of the National Honor Society and Key Club, also participates as a mentor for freshman students with the nationwide program, “Link Crew.” His plans include law school after attending EMU, where he plans to double-major in philosophy and history.