2009 JFK Award Goes to Vet. Center Coordinator

Felicia Whatley

Dominique Powell, University of Massachusetts graduating bachelor of Political Science, the youngest of seven from Boston, a veteran, and campus Veteran’s Center Coordinator was 2009’s JFK Award Recipient.

The JFK Award was originally discussed in 1976, in conjunction with the John F. Kennedy Library, and was first awarded in 1977. It was designed to be the highest commencement award that an undergraduate could receive.

“Dominique’s personality is vibrant, upbeat, and she always has a smile on her face, whether it is early in the morning or late in the evening. She is a special person, and I wish I had her longer. She is going to go far,” said Bob Cole, her supervisor and Assistant Director of Student Activities.

Nominees are evaluated on the basis of their academic record, their service contributions, and their overall contributions as a citizen of the University and of the world. The chosen recipient receives a $1,000 stipend of John F. Kennedy, an honorarium, and the opportunity to speak at the main University commencement ceremony, according to the Office of Undergraduate Studies.

“She really deserves it. Dominique is an outstanding person and student. She exemplifies everything that is good at UMass Boston,” said Dean of Students Marita Poll.

Powell maintained a 3.8 grade point average, while taking on many responsibilities and leadership roles on campus. She poured her heart into multiple non-profit groups including the Veteran’s Center and Food Project, whose vision is to create political and social change, teach leadership and job skills for high school students in the city and the suburbs, said Powell. The Food Project practices sustainable agriculture to lower income families in Roxbury.

“I wanted to get involved on campus,” said Powell.

Powell demonstrated leadership skills and a concern for her community and country. She served as an active duty Marine stationed in Fort Lejeune, NC 2000-2004, where she earned the Good Conduct Medal. She is currently serving in the Air Force Reserves and has earned Airmen of the Quarter.

“The award was given to Airmen that go above and beyond in their job. As a Marine, I learned to bite my tongue, not lose my cool. Sometimes it was hard,” said Powell.

She found a way to balance her schoolwork and various committees and club involvement. She was an Orientation leader helping new UMB students. She tutored veterans in the Upward Bound Program for two semesters in Math and Science, and was the Treasurer of the Golden Key club.

She served on various committees such as the Dean of Students Advisory Board, the Student Life hiring committee, and Co-curricular and Assessment for the Vice Chancellor, in which she assessed what students were learning. In the Committee Dispensing Board, she learned the ins and outs of the Student Code of Conduct. The board would hear the student’s case and deliberate action.

“I was doing stuff I loved and I didn’t want to lose the opportunity. I went for things I loved. I don’t think I could have fit one more thing in my schedule,” said Powell.

But she always managed to make time for the veterans. She hosted a Care Package Drive before the winter holidays to send donated items to deployed veterans. People really do care about our troops overseas, she said.

“Dominique came to us from the Corps. She had a hard time adjusting to civilian life. She missed the [military] family she left behind. She started getting A’s after A’s, as I expected she would. She expresses herself as she is doing for everyone else,” said Veterans Affairs Representative Gus St. Silva.

Powell also was a teacher and friend to many. She educated faculty, staff, and students about Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome and veterans and addiction. Drug and alcohol addictions are treatable mental disorders.

“I hope the event continues to help those who need resources,” she said.

“I give the William Joiner Center Award, and this is the first year I would have to split it between two students, but now I don’t have to. She is getting the highest award an Undergraduate can get. The JFK award is the Stanley Cup, the Rolls Royce of awards. That’s how great this award is. She returned from the Marines and embraced us,” said St. Silva.