"The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character; that is the goal of true education."

— Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

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Fellow Profiles

MLK Fellows come from all backgrounds and have varied interests. They are focused on developing their leadership skills and giving back to the community.

Divanna Eckels '18 Photo of a black, female a Senior from Indianapolis, Indiana. She is double majoring in History and African and Afro-American Studies with a minor in Sexuality and Queer Studies.

She is the new coordinator of Education and Training for the Office of Prevention Services. In addition, Divanna is a Peer Advocate for the Brandeis Rape Crisis Center, a Peer Counselor at the Queer Resource Center, a member of the Brandeis Pluralism Alliance Steering Committe, and the Undergraduate Departmental Representative for the Sexuality and Queer Studies program.

Divanna also spent the Spring 2017 semester studying abroad in Denmark.

Laura Garcia '18 Photo of a brunette, female student in a judge's robe, holding a gavelis a Cuban-born, first-generation scholar who has dedicated her time at Brandeis to bringing better days to the residents of Waltham. Simultaneously majoring in Sociology and pursuing a minor in Legal Studies, Laura is passionate about giving back to the community and works hard as a Hunger and Homelessness Coordinator to bring awareness to the prominent issues of food and housing insecurity in Middlesex County. Her current efforts are focused on helping such a population by providing housing a job application assistance sessions, developing GED/financial literacy workshops, and participating in the annual Boston Mobile Food Pantry to collect non-perishable items for those in need.

When she is not advocating for social justice issues, she is welcoming new students to the Brandeis family as a Community Advisor for the Department of Community Living, helping first-years find their way on campus. She is also a Undergraduate Departmental Representative for the Legal Studies program, executing various semester activities and information sessions for potential minors.

Picture of black female student, Vennesa Duodu '19Vennesa Duodu ‘19 was born in Ghana, and she immigrated to the United States with her parents when she was two years old. She has been living in Worcester, Massachusetts since then. When she applied to Brandeis, the supplemental essays really sparked her interest in the school because they were centered around social justice issues which is something that has been near and dear to her heart for a very long time. When she came here for Admitted Students Day in 2015, she fell in love with the school, the environment and the people. Vennesa was impressed with all the resources and tools that Brandeis has to offer and to this day, she still is. Brandeis makes Vennesa feel like she can do anything and she knows that she has the support system to help her accomplish all of her goals. With that being said, she is currently pursuing a double major in Biology and HSSP while on the pre-health track.

Vennesa’s time so far at Brandeis has solidified her plans for becoming a pediatrician when she gets older. She has participated in Waltham Group’s T.A.P.S program as a volunteer freshman year and currently as a co-coordinator. She has also had the opportunity of traveling to Haiti with the Brandeis chapter of YourStory International during winter break 2016. That particular opportunity made Vennesa reconsider her option of going back home to Ghana to provide medical aid to mothers and their children and she is certain she wants to do a similar program in Ghana. Fortunately, next spring she will be studying abroad in Ghana. After 18 years of being away, Vennesa will be able to reconnect with her roots and hopefully tackle many issues in the medical field plaguing many Ghanaians such as inadequate access to health care and the overwhelming stigma toward mental health. After graduation and medical school, she plan to return to Ghana and see if she can start a program similar to YSI.

In addition, Vennesa has been a part of some dance teams on campus. She was a part of Brandeis’ premiere majorette dance team, Toxic, for a semester. She has been a member of the African dance team Sankofa which seeks to promote music and dance from all over the African diaspora. Both teams have helped Vennesa enhance self-confidence as well as being a part of amazing sisterhoods. For the past three summers, she interned at the health center in Worcester in the Patient Accounts department where she helps bill patients (sorry!). Working to serve the minority community in Worcester has opened her eyes to the different kinds of people in the world and the various issues that they possess and that has strengthened her determination to help said populations after Brandeis.

Photo of white male student, Gabriel Sol Fontes '19Gabriel Sol Aronson Fontes '19 was raised by a Jewish mother and a Portuguese father in Western Massachusetts. Nurtured by a family of feminists, he chose Brandeis for our fantastic African and Afro-American Studies department, hoping that he could build a more robust intersectional framework for his activism. Not only has Gabriel been able to learn more about Black Feminist organizing domestically, he has also been able to ground that learning in a global context, with courses from Professor Abdur-Rahman, Professor Faith Smith and Professor Carina Ray.
But activism cannot be a purely intellectual endeavor! Thankfully, there are many opportunities to put theory into action at Brandeis. Gabriel has been able to work with REACH Beyond Domestic Violence, a Waltham based organization that works with folks from all backgrounds, and the Brandeis Office of Prevention Services (OPS). At OPS he leads Bystander Trainings to help students recognize sexually inappropriate behavior, take responsibility for intervening and nurture the skills to intervene safely and effectively.
The Dr. Martin Luther King Fellowship is the gift that keeps on giving! It is so much more than simply a financial scholarship. Gabriel met two of his best friends during our Freshman MLK Fellowship retreat and they still hang out all the time! Furthermore, his advisors keep him in the loop about funding opportunities, conferences and professional development. For instance, this summer Gabriel is living in Brooklyn, working with a community organization to expand healthcare benefits for unemployed folks. The entire experience is fully funded by a grant through the Hiatt Career Center called the World of Work (WOW) Grant. His advisors from the MLK Fellowship notified him about the grant opportunity, nominated him and guided him through the application process.