An ecumenical service in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Scholarship Trust Fund beneficiaries also recognized members of the fund’s board of trustees Sunday, including the scholarship’s late founder.
The 29th annual service at St. James Episcopal Church included a tribute to Eunice Waller, who established the fund with her husband in 1968. Wallace died last April at the age of 90.
Melanie House, one of nine students receiving a scholarship in 2012, said Waller asked her students to channel their thoughts and emotions on King’s assassination through writing and offered a $100 award for the best essay. Since that time, the scholarship has grown to give out about $20,000 in scholarships each year to New London County students based on factors such as financial need, a dedication to learning, and an understanding and implementation of King’s mission.
“As one of the recipients, I can say we are all deeply grateful,” said House. “We thank God for blessing us with Ms. Waller, and may her spirit become triumphant in our lives.”
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Students also recognized Ulysses Hammond, an outgoing member of the scholarship’s board of trustees, for his work with the fund and community. Nathalia Rios described Hammond as a “treasure to this community.”
Ayeisha Washington said the “legacy of the bow tie” began when Hammond began wearing them in middle school.
“Dr. Hammond lives to help those around us, and he sets an example for all of us,” she said.
The keynote speaker, Roxana Walker-Canton, received a scholarship from the fund prior to her graduation from New London High School in 1987. She now works as an assistant professor of new media, film, television, and radio at Fairfield University and is a documentary filmmaker. Her last film, Belly of the Basin, focused on New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
Walker-Canton said the students should recognize King’s lesson that “science investigates, religion interprets.” King said science and religion should not be rivaling forces, but rather complement one another in an effort to improve the world.
“Religions give us lenses to interpret the world and to have discernment, to be able to discern between what is good, what is bad, and all that falls in between,” said Walker-Canton. “Advancements in science and technology don’t change what promotes a healthy and balanced society and what harms society.”
Walker-Canton said that the goal of her filmmaking is to use the technology as a platform for social justice and to give a voice to those who are not always heard. She said the use of technology also allows for the preservation and promotion of ideas, noting how King’s ideas are still available through video today.
However, Walker-Canton said the scholarship recipients are also a generation with unprecedented levels of technology. She said this can act as “double-edged swords” and urged a responsible use of such devices.
“It is not a good practice to promote technology and science that makes violence and chaos seem exciting and entertaining, and then wonder why we have so much violence and chaos in our society,” she said.
The service recognized seniors who received scholarships in October. The recipients are:
- Kayla Fowler, Ledyard High School
- Melanie House, Fitch High School
- Megan McBryde, Waterford High School
- Jouval Mejias-Maceno, Stonington High School
- Nathalia Rios, Science and Technology Magnet High School
- Courtney Sanders, St. Bernard School
- Bailey Smith, Norwich Free Academy
- Ayesha Washington, Science and Technology Magnet High School
- Mackenzie Williams, Norwich Free Academy