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Dreams from the Dreamers

Oakland University 2017 Keeper of the Dream Awards recipients dream big

The 6 award recipients of the Oakland University 2017 Keeper of the Dream posing in a room with tables and chairs behind them

Oakland University 2017 Keeper of the Dream Award recipients (from left to right) Anders Engnell, Daryl Blackburn, Jacob Semma, Alex Currington, Shayla McCoullough and Aditya Tiwari photographed in the Oakland Center. Photo by Adam Sparkes.

I have a dream

icon of a calendarJune 6, 2017

icon of a pencilBy Emell Derra Adolphus

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Each year, Oakland University celebrates the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. by honoring students who exemplify Dr. King's legacy of goodwill at the Keeper of the Dream Awards Celebration. At this year's 25th annual celebration — held on January 16, and hosted by actress Holly Robinson Peete — eight students were recognized as role models who promote diversity, cultural understanding and community activism.

Oakland University juniors Gabriela Saenz and Ashley Chillis are Keeper of the Dream Award recipients. Photo by Adam Sparkes.

Gabriela Saenz regularly volunteers for CAREHouse of Oakland County and dreams of becoming a clinical social worker. "My first priority is to work with children on Native American reservations," says Saenz, who is of Native American heritage. "Many children living on reservations don't receive quality social services, if any."


"My dream is to work as a nurse at Beaumont Hospital alongside my father, a respiratory therapist of more than 20 years," says Chillis, a Center for Multicultural Initiatives peer mentor, Circle of Sisterhood member and president of the Nu Phi Chapter of the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority at OU.

Oakland University seniors Anders Engnell and Jacob Semma are Keeper of the Dream Award recipients. Photo by Adam Sparkes.

"My dream is to rebuild inner cities across the United States by combining fantastic urban policy with legit business startups," says Engnell, creative writing and mathematics major.


"My dream is to fight for the rights of marginalized groups," says Semma, women and gender studies major and president of OU's Gay Straight Alliance.

Oakland University seniors Daryl Blackburn and Shayla McCoullough are Keeper of the Dream Award recipients. Photo by Adam Sparkes.

"I dream of making a safe and inclusive environment where every race, ethnicity, age and gender feels welcome," says Blackburn, human resource development major.


"My dream is to become a wellness coordinator and wellness coach," says McCullough, integrative studies major and peer mentor in the Center for Multicultural Initiatives and Pre-College Programs. "I plan to focus on assisting people in underrepresented areas."

Oakland University juniors Aditya Tiwari and Alex Currington are Keeper of the Dream Award recipients. Photo by Adam Sparkes.

"My dream is conservation, environmental protection and mitigating the effects of climate change through nonprofit advocacy and research," says Tiwari, environmental science major.


"My dream is to counsel and advise underrepresented young adults," says Currington, psychology major. Without OU's Center for Multicultural Initiatives, he says, "I would not be the leader I am today."

For more information on how to apply for next year's Keeper of the Dream Awards, click here.

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