Oakland University student Ja’Laaiyah Gordon was one of nine recent recipients of the Keeper of the Dream Award. The award honors the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and awards scholarships to students who best demonstrate leadership qualities through their involvement on campus and in the community.

Oakland University student Ja’Laaiyah Gordon was one of nine recent recipients of the Keeper of the Dream Award. The award honors the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and awards scholarships to students who best demonstrate leadership qualities through their involvement on campus and in the community.

Photo provided by Eric Reikowski


Southfield resident earns OU’s Keeper of the Dream award

By: Jacob Herbert | Southfield Sun | Published January 29, 2021

Advertisement

SOUTHFIELD — Ja’Laaiyah Gordon has spent her college career working to make people from all walks of life feel more comfortable.

The 22-year-old fifth-year Oakland University student leads fitness dance classes for fellow students and is a CORE — Collectively Oakland Retains Everyone — ambassador for incoming freshmen, working to make sure they are adjusting to college life while helping them in any way she can.

It was these kinds of outreach efforts that led OU CORE Coordinator Christopher Hunter to nominate Gordon for the university’s Keeper of the Dream award.

The award, established in January 1993, recognizes Oakland students who have contributed to interracial understanding and goodwill. Students must have a 3.0 GPA and a clear career focus, they must demonstrate academic persistence, and they must be returning to OU in the fall and winter semester of the following year.

“I was so excited,” Gordon said. “It was a process — you have to apply, and I was a little nervous to apply for it. I wasn’t sure if I contributed the way that I really wanted to. But in talking to the person that nominated me, they told me that they have watched me over the years and they think that I’ve made a really big impact. That really inspired me to try and got for it. I’m so happy I was awarded with it.”

On top of being honored with the award itself, Gordon received a $5,000 scholarship. She had to prepare a resume that highlighted the work she’s done on campus and submit an essay discussing why she should be considered for the award.

“Ja’Laaiyah is a very strong student and she has gone above and beyond to get involved,” OU Center for Multicultural Initiatives Assistant Director Nicole Lucio said. “She has a way of making sure that if someone isn’t represented at the table in terms of creating programs or talking about services with students, just making sure that they’re being considered in those different perspectives. She is very kind and relatable. She’s very able to navigate those spaces and bring people in. She’s done really great work and she’s just a phenomenal person.”

There were a total of nine applicants for this year’s award. Lucio said it’s important to highlight students like Gordon because it’s important to create a space where people feel valued. College can be a brand-new world to a lot of students, so it’s necessary to have dialogue and create a space where you can learn about someone else’s experience and walk of life.

“It’s really important that we reward and incentivize that type of work for students,” Lucio said.

Gordon said that winning the award was a highlight in the midst of an otherwise strenuous 2020.  The award also inspired her to keep working to make even more of an impact that she’s already had.

“When I heard that I won the award, it just made me feel like anything is possible,” Gordon said. “There is so much happening, and I feel like a lot of us want to do so much but we don’t know where to start. It can really be the smallest thing like how I can bring people together through dance or I can help a community of students realize everyone can achieve in the same place in a different way.”

Advertisement