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2016-2017

2017 Michael DolzerMichael Dolzer

I am a Media Arts and Design and Writing, Rhetoric and Technical Communication double major. As a bisexual man, reading Whitten Maher’s articles is empowering. In his piece “And So We March,” Whitten talks about how same-sex marriage legislation shows that the government only recognizes certain forms of love, and that we must keep fighting until we are treated equally. His words ring true today, as the LGBTQ+ community is facing similarly trying times. My rights and the rights of other minority groups could be denied because of who we are, and people like Whitten fought too hard for me to sit silently.

As the Managing Editor of The Breeze and Editor-in-Chief of Port & Main Magazine, I have had the opportunity to write about issues ranging from prison recidivism to a student who came from the Middle East, and to assign so many more advocacy stories to writers so that these publications could tell stories that would have gone untold. I also take being a voice for the voiceless literally, as I co-host a weekly social justice talk show on WXJM, where I discuss the issues affecting marginalized groups and what we can do to fix them.

Someone who shares Whitten’s bravery is Rain Garant, a transgender student whose story I recently shared in The Breeze. Rain’s story affected mesomeone who was supposed to be an impartial journalistbecause I could relate to him. I wanted to put a face on a group that many people do not understand, and I want his story to be a beacon of hope for others who live their lives on the margins. My only goal is for my work to make a difference, just like Whitten did.

 

Sarah BeidlemanSarah Beidleman

I am a Media Arts and Design major with a double minor in Creative Writing and Studio Art. In my free time, I love traveling and taking pictures. I am also in the Phi Mu sorority and have become very involved with the philanthropic events we support. The one closest to my heart is MadiTHON, a twelve-hour dance marathon to raise money for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. Miracle Kids and their families come for at least part of the event to dance with our sorority and tons of other organizations that support us. In the future, I would love to continue advertising for a non-profit organization, like CMN, not only because I can see who exactly my work affects, but because it helps support those in need who often are not in a position to speak for themselves. Perhaps this is what drew me to those in the crabbing industry.

When I was young, I stayed at my grandmother’s house in Southern Maryland on the Potomac River over the summer and watched the crabbers fish the nets early every morning. Crabbing and fishing is a huge industry in the area, and Maryland may be on the map because of blue crabs, but not many people know much about the watermen and what they go through. I wanted to highlight these people. “Crabbing, Culling, Repeat” is about a very specific group of people in a small town, with limited options, who continue to get up and get out on the water day in and day out.

Bringing this topic to Harrisonburg, Virginia, and beyond was important to me because many people take college for granted. In many areas, it is expected that students graduate from high school and continue their education at a four-year college followed by graduate school or full-time employment. My goal in telling the story of the crabbers and their underappreciated work was to show the other side of life.

The Whitten Maher Memorial Scholarship seeks to educate audiences about populations who are unrecognized or misunderstood. and I can tell you, after I interviewed these men, that they absolutely fall in this category. At the same time, it can be applied to many workers in many industries in similar situations. Whitten Maher wrote unique, local stories that engaged issues of national importance. I hope “Crabbing, Culling, Repeat” can do just that.

 

2015-2016

Adaoma OkaforAdaoma Okafor

I am a Justice Studies major with a minor in Writing, Rhetoric and Technical Communication. Upon graduating, I plan to attend law school to further my dream of becoming an attorney. I believe passionately in the urgent need for criminal justice reform and the right of all people—regardless of race, sexual orientation, gender, religion, and socioeconomic status—to have effective representation when dealing with the justice system.

My commitment to serving others has prompted my involvement with the Community Service Learning Office here at JMU. I also work with the Office of Orientation as an Orientation Peer Adviser and with student government, where I’ll serve as the Student Liaison to the Board of Visitors during the 2016-2017 academic year.

I am originally from Lagos, Nigeria, and during my first year at James Madison, I experienced a sense of displacement because I was an immigrant and a person of color. This is why I feel that it is important to encourage groups of people who feel marginalized or silenced.

In its final recognition of the possibility for hope, Whitten Maher’s 2008 Breeze column titled “The Last Temptation of a Skeptic” reminds me of my journey at James Madison. My submission to the Whitten Maher Memorial Scholarship competition describes my internal struggle as a person of color in a society where I did not feel valued, an experience that could be applicable to people belonging to a variety of marginalized populations. Just when I thought I knew how my time here at JMU was going to end, the story changed, and in turn changed me. In "Man Down! Man Down! A Tribute to Our Fallen Soldiers," I tell a story of hopelessness, a story of self-discovery, and finally, a story of victory.

 

Tyler GarzaTyler Garza

I am a Kinesiology major in the Pre-Physical Therapy program. I also play trumpet in the Marching Royal Dukes and mellophone in the pep band. My passion for helping others and watching them grow informs my desire to serve as a physical therapist. I am very good at motivating others to achieve their potential.  

Growing up as a homosexual man, I can easily identify with the ideals Whitten Maher expresses in articles like "For You, Wherever You Are." Maher wanted the LGBTQ+ community to be understood. He wanted all of the LGBTQ+ youth, closeted or out, to know they are not alone. I wish I had read some of his works when I was younger.

People don’t understand what it’s like to be in the closet. People know the term and what it refers to, but they don’t understand the weight of what it really means. They don’t understand that being in the closet is miserable and lonely when you don’t find the support you need. As Maher said, “Some do fine. Some don’t.”

I love telling the story that I recount in "Finding My New Emily." I love when people care enough to ask. I understand that my experience is not a unique one, as many people have gone through similar feelings, but isn’t that what I want to convey? Sharing my story offers a small glimpse of what many LGBTQ+ youth feel growing up. People need to know what it’s like to be in the closet, and the importance of supporting those around them no matter what. The LGBTQ+ community needs to be more than tolerated. We need to be understood.

 

2014-2015

2015 Lauren HuntLauren Hunt ('16)

I'm a senior Media Arts and Design major with a concentration in Journalism and minors in Creative Writing and British Communications and Media. I grew up in the small town of Amherst, Virginia, watching the news with my father like it was our job at 5 p.m., 6:30 p.m. and 11 p.m. Growing up in that kind of environment, it was only natural that I sought out the Journalism program here at JMU. I am always enthralled by stories of invididuals who have overcome obstacles with the bravery and courage I wish to possess in my everyday life.

My natural curiosity drives me to seek out those who have stories and to share them with the rest of the world. This led me to the subject of my piece, Nathan Selove, who had been bullied for his Asperger's syndrome until he was given his autism service dog, Sylvia. After meeting Sylvia, Nathan's classmates began to understand his actions and the bullying eased. I hoped in sharing Nathan's story in The Breeze, James Madison University's student newspaper, to expose readers to another's experiences and perspectives and to promote empathy rather than judgment.

 

2013-2014

ViVictoria Price in the Dominican Republicctoria Price ('15)

I was raised in the double-stoplight town of Elkton, Virginia, and my small-town upbringing and curiosity about people remain with me. Traveling to the Dominican Republic (DR) and observing the individuals there sharpened my understanding of suffering and the value of human rights. This understanding has altered the way I envision my own future as well as that of the bigger world to which I belong. I hope that my writing and involvement will help others build their own connections to our local and global neighbors. I plan to earn my master's degree in Writing, Rhetoric and Technical Communication at JMU and then attend law school to become a legal advocate.

The narrative piece I submitted to the Whitten Maher Memorial Scholarship competition was inspired by my continued involvement in the campaign for quality life in the Dominican Republic. My involvement began almost two years ago when I signed up for a two-semester seminar in global studies and service in the Dominican Republic. I was so inspired by the teachers and advocates I encountered, and their use of democratic avenues to fight for the right to adequate education that I returned a second time and became involved in a human rights campaign. I spoke with Haitian migrant workers and Dominican citizens of Haitian descent about their substandard and inhumane living conditions. Government legislation left thousands of people stateless on the island of La Hispaniola, rendering the DR a failed state. I wrote about the injustices that I encountered because narratives take root in the human conscience to then surface as action and change.

 

Corey Matthew Tierney ('15)Corey Tierney

Originally from Winchester, Virginia, I am a senior Media Arts & Design major with a minor in Writing, Rhetoric and Technical Communication. Two of my biggest passions are community service and journalism, and I'm thrilled to have been able to practice (and merge) them every day here at JMU. As a Co-President of Sigma Alpha Lambda, an organization that values local community service, academic achievement, and leadership, I try my hardest to help those who are underrepresented or marginalized. As the Opinion Editor of The Breeze (a position that Whitten himself once held) and Editor-in-Chief of Port & Main Magazine, I strive for this same advocacy through writing and design. It has been so rewarding to print pieces on issues like LGBTQ rights, women's rights, inclusion, assault prevention, diversity, and privilege. I'm hoping that my work has sparked at least a little bit of discussion here on campus and inspired others to speak up and fight for equality.

My submission to the Whitten Maher Memorial Scholarship competition included both a written opinion piece and a newspaper page design. My layout featured an op-ed by Jacqueline Horton, a JMU student who in 2014 started the Minorities at Madison campaign to raise awareness about cases of racism and the lack of diversity on campus. I also wrote a piece on the positive impact of George Mason University’s gender-neutral dorm, a spectacular step forward for the transgender community and their fight for LGBTQ rights. Both pieces encourage empathy by placing the reader in the shoes of those affected and call on JMU to implement changes that make the university more inclusive and accepting of minorities. Finally, they are examples of writing that reaches out to minorities, much in the way Whitten did when he was with us.

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