The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Westside Coalition presented its 2019 Community Light Award to the Santa Monica College (SMC) DREAM Program at a celebration held Monday, January 21 to commemorate Dr. King’s birthday at the SGI-USA World Peace Ikeda Auditorium in Santa Monica. During the program, four local high school students were also honored with the coalition’s 2019 Education Awards.

The multi-ethnic, interfaith program — attended by hundreds of community members including local leaders and elected officials — featured Derric J. Johnson, the founding director of Crossroads Schools new Equity & Justice Institute as keynote speaker. In addition, there were performances by Tatiana Zamir and Isokan Arts Collective, 21st Street Singers of Crossroads School, and inspirational readings by local faith and community leaders.

The MLK Westside Coalition recognized the SMC DREAM Program “…for enacting the spirit of Dr. King by providing innovative support services to undocumented students.”

The 2019 Community Light Award

Santa Monica College’s DREAM Program was formed in 2018, as a collective of resources and support services that the college had begun to offer in the wake of the rescission of DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) in 2017. Introduced in 2012 by President Obama, DACA shielded young immigrants brought to the U.S. as children from deportation, and it does not provide a pathway to citizenship. However, renewable every two years, DACA allows eligible young immigrants the ability to work and/or pursue higher education without fear of deportation.

Speaking on behalf of the SMC DREAM Program, the college’s Director of Special Programs Nicholas Mata said that the DREAM program was “born out of the need to create a supportive, nondiscriminatory, and safe environment for undocumented students on campus. . . to show them that they belong, they are safe, that someone cares, and that they have a right to an education.”

Mata went on to offer examples of the kind of students the program serves: “The DACA student from South LA who takes three buses to get to SMC every day in the hopes of transferring to UCLA. The undocumented student who works two jobs so she can pay for her tuition and contribute to family finances. The SMC student who is an U.S. citizen but whose parents are not, who comes to campus every day worried if today is the day that her mom or dad gets deported, and yet still makes the Dean’s list every semester.”

In closing his remarks, Mata talked about the telegram that Dr. King sent to Cesar Chavez in 1966 where he wrote: “As brothers in the fight for equality… our struggles are really one: a struggle for freedom, for dignity and for humanity.” Mata stated that Dr. King’s conviction that a person’s humanity is paramount “guides the work of the SMC DREAM Program.”

The SMC DREAM Program provides support services including academic and financial aid counseling; one-on-one support through the Undocumented Ally Program (a voluntary training program for employees who want to be familiar with laws and services related to DREAMers; more than 210 employees have taken the training); DACA renewal assistance workshops; and financial support through SMC Foundation scholarships. For more information, see:

Several student-run clubs galvanized efforts to help their undocumented peers, which eventually led to the formation of the DREAM Program; these included I.D.E.A.S., The Progressive Student Union, Adelante, Black Collegians, the Association of Latin American Students, the Helping Hands Club, and the Homegirl and Homeboy Scholars of SMC, among others.

2019 Education Awards

Each year, schools, churches, and youth groups invite college and high school students to submit an essay, poem, or other creative work that exemplifies the “Six Principles of Nonviolence” in Dr. King’s Stride Toward Freedom. The four seniors from area high schools who were presented the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Westside Coalition 2019 Education Awards are:

  • Miracle Johnson, recipient of the 2019 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Award: A senior at Susan Miller Dorsey High School, Johnson enjoys studying history and taking leadership classes—and loves sports—all while supporting children in her spare time. A Biology major, Miracle plans to pursue a medical degree to become a doctor. She wrote a piece entitled “The revolution in you ends when you no longer hate a stranger.”
  • Jada Salazar, recipient of the 2019 Lillie Bell Blakely Award: Salazar is a senior at Susan Miller Dorsey High School’s Law and Public Service Magnet Program, with a dream to become a lawyer and US Senator. As a child raised in the foster care system, she has considered studying family law. Salazar is educating herself to support the fight against injustice in society.
  • Toi Carter, recipient of the 2019 Clyde Smith Award: Carter is currently attending the Susan Miller Dorsey High School Law Magnet Program. In fall 2019, she will be attending Southern University and A&M College, majoring in nursing. She appreciates all opportunities given to helping young people of minority groups to improve themselves as well as the community.
  • Chase Metoyer, recipient of the 2019 Saul Morrison Award: Metoyer is a senior at Culver City High School with a love for volleyball and dreams of graduating from college with a degree in fine arts. Chase has hopes of developing her own art gallery with future endeavors of creating an interactive museum to inspire and educate aspiring artists.

The awards are supported by endowments established in memory of local community activists and is managed by the Santa Monica College Foundation. To find out more about the education awards, or to help support them, please call the SMC foundation at 310-434-4215.

Submitted by Grace Smith, SMC Public Information Officer

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