Outstanding high schoolers celebrated during ceremony for the inaugural Yale Bassett Award for Community Engagement

2017 Bassett Award winners with Professor Stephen Pitti and Yale President Peter Salovey
October 16, 2017

On October 13, 2017, twenty high school seniors from across the United States were honored for their leadership and commitment to public service during the first Yale Bassett Award for Community Engagement ceremony, which was held in the Afro American Cultural Center.

Established in 2016 as one of the first initiatives of the Yale Center for the Study of Race, Indigeneity, and Transnational Migration (RITM), the Bassett Award for Community Engagement honors young, emerging leaders who demonstrate a record of creative leadership and public service, academic distinction, interdisciplinary problem solving, and experience addressing societal issues. Selected in the spring of their junior year, the 20 awardees – now seniors – were invited to campus for this ceremony and the chance to meet one another.

Sixteen of the twenty winners and their families and friends were able to be present in New Haven for the event, which included remarks by RITM Center Director, Professor Stephen Pitti, and Yale President Peter Salovey.

“These twenty students have earned distinctions in classrooms and laboratories while providing generous service and intellectual leadership, and excelling in athletics and the arts and other fields,” said Professor Pitti during his introduction. “Our faculty was impressed and deeply inspired by their vision, their commitment, and their energy, and we are confident that they will provide much-needed leadership for our society in the years ahead.”

In welcoming the awardees and others to Yale for the inaugural conferral of the Bassett Award, President Peter Salovey highlighted the work of the center on and beyond campus and observed that the award not only honors Ebenezer Bassett, who was the nation’s first African American diplomat, but also reflects the university’s mission to “educate aspiring leaders worldwide who serve all sectors of society.” “Today’s awardees,” he said, “embody the qualities and the dedication to service that we foster in our own students. I look forward to seeing what they will do in the years to come!”

In recognition of their accomplishments, each awardee received a certificate and a copy of Jim Crow Wisdom: Memory and Identity in Black America since 1940 that had been signed by Professor Pitti and the author, former Yale College Dean Jonathan Holloway, who was at Yale when the Awardees were selected in spring 2017.

After the ceremony, the awardees, families, friends, and the Yale students, faculty, and administrators who were present for the festivities enjoyed dinner and entertainment by the acapella group, Shades. The awardees also had the opportunity to attend a workshop led by Peter Crumlish, Executive Director of Dwight Hall at Yale. While on campus, many of the winners also participated in Yale’s annual Multicultural Open House day, organized by Undergraduate Admissions.

In addition to the twenty winners, the Yale Center for the Study of Race, Indigeneity, and Transnational Migration also named 41 students semi-finalists in the 2017 Bassett Award competition. The Center plans to run the Bassett Award competition again in 2018 and will announce details for application and nomination later this year.

The 2017 Winners

Erik Barraza Cordova of Phoenix, AZ

Hadassah Betapudi of Collierville, TN

Estee Dechtman of Denver, CO

James Dennis of New Iberia, LA

Hawraa Faisal of Glendale Heights, IL

Abbi Fitzpatrick of Cut Bank, MT

Rhea Grant of Milford, CT

Chase Kinzly of New Haven, CT

Luis Leon of Houston, TX

Domonique Malcolm of Carthage, NY

Alejandro Ortega of Miami, FL

Jonah Perrin of Chapel Hill, NC

Iesha-LaShay Phillips Jenks, OK

Dennis Portillo of Los Angeles, CA

Sana Shareef of Port St. Lucie, FL

Cassidy Tshimbalanga of Alamo, CA

Dominic Velasquez of Canfield, OH

Octavia Washington of Brooklyn, NY

Tyler White of Portland, OR

Peter Za of Portland, OR