The Lydia Maria Child Society is delighted to once again recognize three outstanding scholar-activists with our social justice awards. Now in their third year, these awards are presented to three individuals (one high school or undergraduate student, one graduate student, and one professor or independent scholar) who continue Lydia Maria Child’s tireless work toward a more just and equitable world. As in years past, this year’s nominees were without exception extraordinary, each one serving as a powerful and heartening reminder of the ways in which academia and activism at their best can overlap and intertwine. We hope you’ll be as inspired as we were by this year’s three award recipients.
The winner in the high school and undergraduate student category is Anto Rondón, a philosophy and international relations double major at Boston University. Anto, who was born in Venezuela, is deeply committed to spreading awareness of and working to ameliorate her home country’s turbulent political landscape. She has organized events to educate her fellow BU students about the issues in Venezuela and has been a media manager for Cuatro Por Venezuela Foundation, which provides the country humanitarian aid. She’s also a volunteer for the Refugee Freedom Program, which works to support refugees around the globe, and she’s been an intern at the National Endowment for Democracy, where she focused on how Latin American countries compare to other parts of the world. As if all that isn’t enough, she’s also the Editor-in-Chief of BU’s Hoochie Media Project, an intersectional feminist “thought project” that includes a print journal, a digital blog, and activism for feminists on campus and beyond.
Our graduate student award goes to David Puthoff, a Ph.D. candidate at New Mexico University. David’s dissertation focuses on grassroots interracial solidarity as represented in nineteenth-century African American literature, and his own commitment to solidarity is broadly evident. He is working to make the process of teaching writing more accessible and social justice-oriented in his roles as Core Writing Coordinator in his department and executive board member of the New Mexico chapter of the National Council of Teachers of English, which advocates for social justice in literacy practices. He volunteers with the childcare collective FAM (Free Access to Movements), members of which have presented to and collaborated with his classes alongside Save the Kids, an organization that works to end the school-to-prison pipeline. Finally, David is a founding member of the John Brown Breakfast Club, which provides warm meals and know-your-rights trainings to the Albuquerque community, housed and unhoused, documented and undocumented.
Lastly, the award in our professor and independent scholar category goes to Dr. Debby Rosenthal, who’s a professor in the English department at John Carroll University. Debby’s work has focused on an impressive array of social justice issues represented in nineteenth-century American literature, including anti-slavery, temperance, and the power of performative speech to enact social change. For the past several years, she’s taught a course entitled Poverty in American Literature, which combines traditional literary analysis with weekly service-learning projects that connect students with individuals facing poverty in their community—in prisons and juvenile detention centers, homeless shelters and refugee resettlement agencies. She and her students have also worked alongside Samaria Rice, the mother of Tamir Rice who in 2014, at age 15, was shot and killed by Cleveland police as he played in a gazebo near his home. Together, they’ve established the Tamir Rice Foundation, which aims to provide arts, cultural, educational, and civic programming to youth living below the poverty level.
We are so grateful to Anto, David, and Debby as well as to our other amazing nominees for their deeply valuable work on the page, in the classroom, and in the broader community. This year’s nominees also include:
Emily Gowen and Andrew Donnelly
Regina E. Mason
Xine (Christine) Yao
This work matters, and the Lydia Maria Child Society is honored to be able to support it. Thank you.