The Sojourner Truth Memorial Committee is pleased to announce the 2017 recipients of the Sojourner Truth Scholarship for Social Justice: Dorilyn Castillo, Chicopee High School; Mugisha Cutsimpumu, Springfield Central High School; and Bridget MacNeill, Pioneer Valley Performing Arts Academy.
Dorilyn Castillo is an active member and president of the Holyoke Youth Commission, a group of teens who plan community service activities and act as a voice for young people in their community. She also serves as student class president at Chicopee High School, a position she achieved after enduring racist comments and bullying during the election process. “Social Justice is all about being given the chance to do what others are too fearful of doing or saying and representing the people that from time to time are overlooked,” Dorilyn wrote. “In my small but tight knit community of Holyoke we all stick together and this has taught me the meaningfulness of communication, helpfulness, service, and selflessness.”
Mugisha Cutsimpumu was inspired to take part in the movement for social justice after attending a Black Lives Matter demonstration. “The sight of so many people gathered to fight for the same cause was so empowering and I remember feeling like I was meant to be there, like this was what I was meant to do and this was right,” she wrote. Mugisha is an active member of the Pioneer Valley Projects’ Youth Committee, and is involved in their efforts to raise awareness about mass incarceration. “Sojourner Truth worked hard to improve the lives of black people, and I feel like with our work, we are too, by fighting for equality within the criminal justice system, and the end of the targeting and criminalization of black communities.”
Bridget MacNeill is active in many social justice causes, including protesting the North Eastern Direct Pipeline and the Dakota Access Pipeline, even camping at Standing Rock Reservation for a week and working with the Indigenous Youth Council. Bridget has also worked to promote women’s rights, directing a women’s history month showcase, planning a fundraiser to buy tampons to support a local shelter, and organizing a walkout and speeches for International Women’s Day. Sojourner Truth “proved that strength comes from defining yourself beyond your identities, that there is strength in being a woman,” Bridget wrote. It was through her work that she “recognized that I cannot just fight for the issues that affect me directly. Truth demonstrated that the equality I seek is immediately tied to the equality of all.”
The three students will receive their scholarships at the Sojourner Truth Annual Celebration on Sunday, May 28, at 2:00pm.