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Seton Hall University

MLK Scholars Reflect on Their Seton Hall Journey

Seton Hall University’s Martin Luther King (MLK) graduates continue a legacy of excellence that was established in 1970. 

"MLK Scholars operate as a community of learners in an honorary society, the Martin Luther King Scholarship Association (MLKSA). Students complete an Honors Seminar in their freshman year and participate in many conferences as presenters. This year’s graduates have received national honors for their cultural and academic impact of their diverse and innovative community-based projects. These accomplished scholars include two Summa Cum Laude and six Magna Cum Laude graduates," noted Rev. Forrest M. Pritchett, Ph.D., Program Director of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Leadership Program. 

Martin Luther King Scholars at SHU commmencement.

Martin Luther King Scholars celebrate a legacy of academic excellence and servant leadership.

Inspiring Examples of Servant Leadership

Many MLK Scholars complete for more than 200 hours of servant leadership through community service, with some completing over 300 hours. Rev. Pritchett notes that some scholars have developed and run their own community-based projects. One MLK graduating scholar is known throughout the New York metropolitan region for her advocacy for foster children, which is based on her experiences as a former foster child. The Class of 2024 also contains three third- year students, who commenced in joint or dual degree programs, all with honors. These select MLK Scholars represent the Class of 2024 graduates and share their University journeys and plans moving forward.

Honoring A Lasting Impact on Campus Culture and the Community

Kristina Brown, Ossining, NY
Major: Elementary Special Education/English; Buccino Institute Leadership Program and Summa Cum Laude

Kristina Brown is the recipient of the MLK 2024 Honors medal to recognize her significant impact on campus culture and community impact.

For the past two years I was president of the organization H.A.I.R. (Having Appreciation in Realness). After gaining some experience in the classroom, I plan to go back to school for educational leadership to get my administrative certification and hope to be a principal and even superintendent one day. As an MLK Scholar, my great work will be to cultivate a community of young learners who think outside of the box and have a growth mindset. I hope to teach the future generation to be the best versions of themselves and to fight for what they believe in. 

Catriona Larouch, Wesmount, Canada
Major: Business Administration Minor: Legal Studies in Business/International Business Western Europe, Summa Cum Laude 

Catriona Larouch reflected on how important it was for her to ‘lead by example’ after she heard that phrase during MLKSA orientation She plans to become a university professor of Russian literature and linguistics, while continuing to do detailed research of the effects of Russian nationalism on cultural and linguistic development in Eastern Europe. 

Akuchinyerem Onyeobia, Elmont, NY
Major: Biology

Celebrating African culture and promoting mental health advocacy, Akuchinyerem Onyeobia plans to complete her Doctorate in Physical Therapy at New York Medical College. She shared, "Throughout my time in college, I was heavily involved in campus organizations like the African Student Association, and Mind Over Matter, where I held the positions of Secretary for one year and President for another. The African Student Association promotes African culture, heritage, and unity among students, while Mind Over Matter focuses on mental health advocacy."

Donyelle Reed, Rohnert Park, CA
Major: Entrepreneurship/Management

Throughout my four years as an MLK scholar, I learned how to practice my independence, confidence, and leadership skills not only through an academic perspective, but in a real-world perspective as well. My work as a scholar comes from creating bonds with individuals through empathy, being that listening ear for freshman students who were just as confused as I was coming into college. My ultimate plan is to become a successful entrepreneur, with a fashionable clothing brand that inspires women and young girls to express themselves in a creative manner. Overall, my time as an MLK scholar will be cherished and appreciated for the rest of my life.

Faith Valerius, Newark, NJ
Major: Secondary Education/Mathematics, Magna Cum Laude

Faith Valerius is preparing to shape a new generation of young minds. Actively involved in MLKSA, the University Pep Band, and Pi Mu Epsilon (the National Mathematics Honor Society), as well as serving as an ambassador for the College of Human Development, Culture, and Media and a tutor for student-athletes on campus, Faith noted, "MLKSA has shaped who I am as a leader and public speaker, pushing me to continue advocating for young people in underserved communities. Upon graduation, I accepted a position as a Math Teacher at Technology High School in Newark, NJ, my alma mater!"

Mary Burke, Montclair, NJ
Major: Diplomacy and International Relations; Minor: Arabic-BSIR/MADI dual degree program; University Honors Program, Magna Cum Laude

Mary Burke plans to graduate with her M.A. in Diplomacy and International Relations in May of 2025. She volunteered for the non-profit, The Borgen Project, which aims to eradicate poverty across the world by appealing to Congress, meeting with Congressional aides, and focusing on legislation. Now a Diplomacy graduate assistant, she writes articles about School events and news. After that she will be applying for various jobs in both the public and private sectors, focusing on research and national security positions. 

As a first-generation college student, I am proud to say I have graduated Magna Cum Laude and was able to graduate within three years. In the future, I hope to be working in a position I care about, doing important work to protect the United States national security.

Ryan McMullin, Wood-Ridge, NJ
Major: Diplomacy and International Relations/Philosophy; Minor Spanish, Magna Cum Laude and University Honors

Ryan McMullin credits his time as an MLKSA scholar for teaching him key leadership skills, providing him with a new lens to analyze important social issues, and giving him the public speaking training needed to succeed professionally. Ryan was also a Peer Advisor for first-year students, served as a Senator on the Student Government Association, and worked for the Student Activities Board. After graduation, Ryan will be accepting a full tuition offer to attend Seton Hall Law, with an interest in representing victims of employment discrimination.

Mercer Santos, Morristown, NJ
Major: Journalism; Minor: Visual and Sound Media, Magna Cum Laude

My time at Seton Hall has been filled with nothing but blessings and tremendous experiences that I will cherish for the rest of my life. I became a reporter for Seton Hall’s undergraduate newspaper, The Setonian, working under the "Campus Life" column where I interviewed fellow peers and composed stories that ended up getting published on the website. That same year, I also joined Lambda Pi Eta—the Communication & The Arts Honor Society—where I served on the executive board as the Social Media Coordinator. Specifically, however, I dream of working for an entertainment publication one day, hopefully acting as a fully capable renaissance man who will be leading my own production team. There are so many doors ahead of me and I cannot wait for my life to truly begin.

Categories: Arts and Culture, Education

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