When senior Chanel Haliburton was told in December she would be presented with the Martin Luther King Jr. Award, she was speechless.
“For me, Martin Luther King is the epitome of service and giving back,” Haliburton said. “He didn’t give back to one community; he gave back to the world.”
Haliburton, a human services major, is one of two multicultural students who will be presented with the Martin Luther King Jr. service award in a ceremony Thursday.
She joins second-year graduate student Sandra Gutierrez as this year’s recipients of the award.
“I wasn’t expecting it,” said Gutierrez, a student in the School of Education and Human Development who received her B.A. in human services from GW. “A lot of people do a lot of things and don’t get noticed. This award is really a reflection of all the people around me.”
The award is presented annually to between one and three students who exemplify the characteristics of King.
“They both really represent the heart of Dr. King, the heart of service, working very hard and passionately for what they believe in,” said Marisela Martinez, director of Multicultural Student Services.
The two women were selected from a diverse pool of students after being nominated anonymously by a staff or faculty member.
After submitting an application, a committee made up of representatives from MSSC and Student and Academic Support Services, two professors, two faculty members and two past recipients met to determine the award winners, Martinez said.
Gutierrez and Haliburton were notified Dec. 2 that they would be honored. In addition to receiving an engraved medal and certificate, they will be given the opportunity to speak to the GW community.
The creator of BLAZEN, a group of students from area colleges that uses theatrical performance to appeal to middle and high school students on social issues, Haliburton travels around the city to reach young people in a meaningful way.
“It’s all about giving young people a voice and letting people know they have power,” she said. “I love working with young people – they are so unpredictable, they have so much excitement.”
In addition to BLAZEN, Haliburton works as a health trainer for National Organization of Concerned Black Men, educating students in D.C. about the dangers of HIV/AIDS and other STDs. She spends her summers working as a mentor for College Summit, a D.C. organization that takes high school students on a four-day intensive program to discuss the college application process.
Haliburton, a member of the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority, also devotes a large amount of time to Advocacy Youth and participates in the Young Women of Color Leadership Counsel.
Gutierrez, who is presently working on her master’s degree in higher education, spent many years working for Americorps as a bilingual math and science teacher at a school in Adams Morgan.
“No one else spoke Spanish in a neighborhood where 60 percent speaks (only) Spanish,” Gutierrez said. After unexpectedly taking on the responsibilities of a teacher, Gutierrez decided she would be better suited as a school administrator.
Gutierrez is also a member of the Lambda Pi Chi sorority and Phi Beta Kappa.
“We get caught up on the GW campus, but there is so much out there,” Haliburton said. “It is important that (GW students) go out into the community and affiliate themselves with other organizations. Off-campus opportunities is what makes GW attractive.”
The ceremony Thursday will begin at 7 p.m. in the Marvin Center Grand Ballroom.
University president Stephen Joel Trachtenberg will speak at the event and BLAZEN and the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity will present tributes to King.