Martin Luther King, Jr., Scholars Program

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Martin Luther King, Jr., Scholars Advance Their Dreams at ED
September 2004

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This summer, 10 outstanding undergraduate and graduate students whose academic achievement and community service honor the late Martin Luther King, Jr., benefited from a unique summer internship program at ED.

The Martin Luther King, Jr., Scholars Program, established in 2002 by President Bush, honors King's contributions to civil and human rights in America by offering opportunities to students who seek to continue his legacy. Students whose studies include education policy or public policy and administration participate by working as paid interns at ED's headquarters in fields relevant to their respective fields of study and under the mentorship of ED staff members.

The scholars had the privilege of meeting with Secretary Paige, Deputy Secretary Hickok and Under Secretary McPherson. With inspiring words, the secretary said, "You will face hardships in your life, but very few things that are important are easy. You may ask yourself, is it worth it? But you already know the answer. You are a very bright group of people with futures full of possibility. Capture it. Anything you dream of can be yours."

Ben Kolodziej, who interned in the Center for Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, is studying to become an elementary schoolteacher. He observed, "Through my experiences [at ED], I've learned that schools certainly do not exist in a vacuum—they are directly related to the community and culture in the location where they are found. The more efficient, productive and successful a school or district is, the more the community as a whole will benefit from the achievement of its students. For schools to be a true success, I've learned from this initiative that the entire community—secular organizations, faith-based groups, businesses, and others—all have a responsibility to support schools, especially if the schools are struggling. My work here will help me immensely in my future career. I'm now aware that not only does the federal government expect solid results from America's students and teachers, but I know that they will also provide as much assistance as possible through grants, useful education statistics, the exchange of best practices, and networking with other federal agencies and organizations in the community."

Mayra Nava, doctoral student and a former special education teacher, served in the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS). "Working in OSERS has broadened my awareness of people and students with disabilities," she said. "It has been eye-opening to see firsthand accounts of policy decisions related to students with disabilities. My experiences will enable me to better serve the students I will work with as a school psychologist upon my return to Chicago. I now feel empowered to contribute to the field of education at a national level by giving voice to diverse opinions and experiences."

With summer near its end, the scholars have headed back to their respective states and schools. They take with them valuable memories and experiences from their time at the Department.

The 2004 Martin Luther King, Jr., Scholars:

Stephen Atlas, Brown University, is pursuing a bachelor's degree in economics.

Peter K. Enns, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, is pursuing a doctorate in political science and American politics.

Stacey Jackson, Springfield College, is working toward a master's degree in social work.

Kathleen Kerstetter, University of Maryland, is pursuing a bachelor's degree in government and politics, and English.

Benjamin Kolodzeij, Mary Washington College, is pursuing a bachelor's degree in sociology and a master's degree in elementary education.

Richard Li, University of Chicago, is working towards a bachelor's degree in anthropology.

Melvette Melvin, Penn State, is pursuing her master's degree in English and research in African-American children's literature.

Shayla Mitchell, Georgia State University, is working on a doctorate in education policy and social foundations.

Mayra Nava, Loyola University, is working towards a doctorate in school psychology.

Julia Park, Vanderbilt University, is pursuing a bachelor's degree in women's studies, sociology and English.

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Last Modified: 01/07/2005