The Rev. James J. Maher, C.M., president of Niagara University, congratulates award winners Elijah Vazquez, Madison Ruffo and Sister Cecilia Odoemema.

On Jan. 25, three Niagara University students showcased their talents as they received awards for creating individual pieces of literature and art that brought Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy to life.

The winners include junior Elijah Vazquez, a theatre performance major, junior Madison Ruffo, a communications major, and graduate student Sister Cecilia Odoemema, who studies education. Through their work, these students clearly exhibited their knowledge of Dr. King and his message of nonviolence and tolerance.

To begin the event, Vazquez embodied Dr. King’s values by portraying a simple message through movement and dance: “Peace! What is peace? Well, I found a definition that suited me and thought it would fit. Peace is mutual tranquility and that’s what I’m exploring with this piece.” His representation through dance connected nonviolent protests with a sense of unity and hope.

Ruffo penned a poem titled “I Have a Nightmare,” in which she examines the truth of the inequality that continues to exist today. By the end of the piece, she has awoken from her nightmare and hopes that others will see the positive impact of acceptance while applauding individualism around the world.

Sister Odeomema, through her essay, conveyed that “Dr. King’s life is a message to all of us who want to make a difference in the life of everyone in the world. He is a voice for the voiceless, so we have to embrace the message that he gave to the world.” Her essay took note of the choices Dr. King made in order to better the lives of those around him.

Averl Harbin, NU’s director of multicultural affairs, stands with Elijah Vazquez

Averl Harbin, NU’s director of multicultural affairs, stands with Elijah Vazquez, Madison Ruffo and Sister Cecilia Odoemema.

The Office of Multicultural Affairs at Niagara University awarded these students for displaying their creative interpretations of Dr. King’s mission to help others. His mission directly relates to the university’s Vincentian values and provides hope for a more equal tomorrow.

This event was one of many taking place on campus this month as a celebration and remembrance of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Article by Natalie Jennings, a senior business administration major. Photos by Taylor Lilton, a sophomore studying criminal justice. 

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