Honoring MLK: Students awarded Keeper of the Dream scholarships

Students, faculty and members of the community joined together on Monday afternoon to recognize four students at the 19th annual Keeper of the Dream Scholarship Awards Celebration.

This year the keynote speech was presented by Oscar-winning actor and founder of The Eracism Foundation, Lou Gossett Jr.

Emily Tissot, Gerald Son, Rodrina Moore and Aiana Scott were individually honored with scholarships for all that they have accomplished as individuals.

The event packed the OU banquet rooms with friends, family and mentors of the award recipients.

“We think the event was hugely successful by the attendance, and by Lou Gossett Jr.’s presentation,” Omar Brown-El, director of the Center for Multicultural Initiatives said.  “Our students were presented with their KOD scholarship award certificates today for the great achievements that they’ve accomplished on campus.”

The KOD Award is presented each year in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to students who illustrate his vision.

“One of Martin Luther’s greatest attributes was that he loved people and he loved to serve, and that is what I feel is really important,” Tissot said.

The recipients are considered leaders on campus and in their communities who break down stereotypes while excelling academically.

In his speech, Gossett spoke in-depth about King’s life, respect and eliminating racism to create diversity.

“Any award like that, that has to do with Dr. King and keeping the dream is very important,” Gossett said.

In addition to the scholarship, this year’s recipients were also presented with a certificate of special recognition signed by Congressman Gary C. Peters.

The certificate was “in acknowledgment of their commitment to promoting diversity and social justice in our community,” University President Gary Russi said.

Two of the students found out about their award in roundabout ways.

Assistant director of the CMI initially told Scott that she didn’t win.

“I was excited, and Bridget told me that I lost as a joke. Then told me I won afterwards,” Scott said.

Tissot said Green made her meet in person before sharing the news.

“When I got into the office (Green) pretended that I had not won the scholarship.  She smiled and announced that I was one of the scholarship recipients,” Tissot said. “I yelled, jumped and hugged everyone near me; it was an incredible moment.”

The scholarship meant something different to each of the winners.  Tissot, a Spanish and literature major, felt encouraged by the award.

“It is a great encouragement to continue doing the work that I love and feel is so important,” Tissot said.

For Moore, who is a nontraditional student majoring in business administration, the award made her feel like coming to OU was the right choice.

“The KOD award reinforces my journey through higher education,” Moore said.  “Being a nontraditional student is sometimes very difficult; (winning) really makes me feel like I made the right decision when I came to Oakland.”

After having the award in his hands, Son was thankful to those who had helped him be successful.

“It’s really hard to explain; I’m grateful that I’m awarded,” Son said.  “I just thank everyone who has been there for me so that I could get this award.”

Tissot felt relief after the event had concluded, but she also felt the award was more than material.

“It wasn’t about the four of us getting pieces of paper, but it was about calling out people on working together, on loving each other and living together,” Tissot said.

Gossett offered his advice to OU students and young people in general.

“The motto for the young: there is no such thing as impossible.  Say it three times every morning, especially when times get tough,” he said.