Congratulations to the 2021 SWS Undergraduate Social Action Awardees!
Alexandria Hernandez. Reagan Williams. Molly Roach
The Undergraduate Social Action Award is given annually to recognize students or a team of students making a substantial contribution to improving the lives of women in society through activism. SWS initiated this award in 2003. The work honored by this award is central to the SWS goal to foster activism for women. SWS recognizes that action “for women” does not mean that the work was done “with women” or even “by women.” Substantial need exists for social action working with working with men, boys, LGBTQ communities and other groups where change will benefit women and can be understood as feminist action. Therefore, SWS recognizes work done in this spirit regardless of applicant gender identity. In 2021, each of the Undergraduate Social Action Awardees will receive an award of $500 to acknowledge and celebrate their social activism. They will also receive 2021 SWS Membership. We celebrated our Undergraduate Social Action Awardees at the 2021 Winter Meeting Awards Reception. A special thank you to the SWS 2021 Undergraduate Social Action Subcommittee: Dr. Ruth M. Hernández-Rios (Chair), Dr. R. Plante and Cierra Sorin.
Photo of Alexandria Hernandez on left
Alexandria Hernandez is attending the University of Texas at El Paso and is working towards receiving her BA in Marketing. She plans to use her degree to work with non-profit organizations and help them reach an audience and show their full potential. A reflection of this passion is the organization she put together known as Frontera Folx for Reproductive Justice, an on-campus organization working to provide a safer space for our community through educating, providing recourses and representation. Within its first official year Frontera Folx’s actions have varied from community gatherings to virtual seminars. Alexandria hopes that Frontera Folx will be a community resource and guide for others for many years to come.
Frontera Folx took part in solidarity in El Paso Pride and other LGBTQ events, engaged with US Congresswoman Veronica Escobar, tabled at health fairs, and supported the community in ways not directly related to reproductive health, such as officially joining the “El Paso Strong” march, which showed community support after the deadly August 3, 2019 Walmart shooting by a racist individual from Dallas who targeted Hispanics. Frontera Folx has also helped raise political awareness and registered people to vote. Among other activities, they also ran a menstrual product drive for individuals living in homeless shelters and organized a clothing swap for trans folx. At the state-level, Frontera Folx has engaged in advocacy through lobbying for reproductive rights at the Austin, Texas State Capitol and they have sent several members to a youth leader empowerment training in Dallas. Dr. Ophra Leyser-Whalen of the University of Texas at El Paso nominated Alexandria for this award.
Photo of Reagan Williams on Right
Reagan Williams is a senior at the College of Charleston majoring in Psychology and Women’s and Gender Studies with a minor in Political Science. She began her activism in Charleston, South Carolina by becoming a student executive board member of the Gender & Sexuality Equity Center. Later, she went on to conduct New Faculty Inclusivity Orientation Trainings, Restorative Justice Circles and other workshops centered around equity. Reagan co-founded a student organization, Mental Health in Melanin, in the Spring of 2019 in order to advocate for mental health care awareness and combat collective trauma often experienced in communities of color. She has served many campus roles as committee member of the Intersectional Cougar Action Network (I-CAN), a coalition of student organizations and campus activists to fight injustice, and committee chairman of the WGS Student Advisory Committee.
I-CAN has served as a catalyst for significant changes on the College of Charleston campus, including application of consistent pressure on the upper administration to address specific instances of bias and discrimination, as well as systemic issues such as lack of attention to LGBTQ+ student needs or a dearth of critical race studies on campus. Under Reagan’s leadership, Mental Health in Melanin has regular events with high-profile speakers, holds candid conversations, and offers community-building spaces for students of color at this predominately white institution (PWI). The spaces and resources that are available to students through this organization foster belonging and inclusion in ways that were not available before. And as part of her commitment to issues relating to marginalized identities and mental health, Reagan also took the initiative to become a LGBTQ+ Affirmative Therapy Training Instructor. Dr. Kris De Welde of the College of Charleston nominated Reagan for this award.
Photo of Molly Roach on Left
Molly Roach is a recent graduate of Framingham State University with a major in Criminology and a minor in Psychology. She is an organizer with RacismFreeWPS in Worcester, Massachusetts. She aspires to go on to graduate school to earn her PhD in Criminology with a focus on sexual and gender violence. Her career goals lie in academia and research.
Molly was born and raised in Worcester, Massachusetts. She attended the public-school system from preschool to 12th grade. She was a member of the Burncoat High School band and orchestra for 6 years and was Vice President of orchestra for 1 year. Her time spent in the public-school system has inspired her current activism work with RacismFreeWPS. Within the RacismFreeWPS organization she is a member of the press team, co-facilitator of Zoom planning meetings, and runs the onboarding process for new members.
She currently works as a bookseller at Barnes & Noble, and as a Peer Health Educator/Social Media Coordinator for the Health and Wellness Center at Framingham State University. In her free time, Molly is a bibliophile who usually reads a book a day while curled up with her pit bull. She is also interning with Dr. Elizabeth Whalley as a research assistant, and they are working together to institute a new sexual education training for new students at Framingham State University.
Photo of Molly Roach with RacismFreeWPS members on Right
RacismFreeWPS is a grassroots organization of about 15 core members, made up of current and former WPS students, that began in July of 2020. The members were encouraged by the swell in activism that was started by the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and decided that there was no better time than the present to push for radical change. They started out on a social media platform with the intent of collecting and publishing anonymous student testimonials of racism within the Worcester Public School system. This quickly grew into students, alumni, educators, and parents submitting stories about sexual violence, homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia, classism, and other forms of oppression. At this point, they shifted their goal: they became focused on ending all forms of oppression in Worcester Public Schools. Their social media following has grown to over 3,000 users, and they have published over 300 testimonials. The social media aspect of their organizing is immensely important, but they all realized that they wanted – and needed – to do more. It was one thing to expose what is happening in the schools, but they wanted to make the step toward making changes. Both Dr. Virginia Rutter and Dr. Elizabeth Whalley of Framingham State University nominated Molly Roach for this award.
For more information on the SWS Undergraduate Social Action Award, please go to this website: https://socwomen.org/awards/undergraduate-social-action/
The next application deadline is October 1, 2021.