27th Annual MLK Celebration Leadership Award Recipient: Desiree Ramirez

Desiree Ramirez

MIT chemical engineering major

27th Annual MLK Leadership Award

Desiree Ramirez, a chemical engineering major from Carmichael, CA, was president of LUChA (La Unión Chicana por Atzlán) last year. She has been a teaching assistant and freshman associate advisor to Dr. Clarence C. Williams for the past two years, leading discussions on racial and culturally sensitive topics. In confirming her nomination, Dr. Williams wrote: "Her leadership in the freshman seminar was one of the finest examples of student teaching and individual growth in the arena of race and culture that I have witnessed during my tenure of teaching in this area."

Dr. Williams, a special assistant to President Vest and an adjunct professor of urban studies and planning, was Ms. Ramirez's freshman advisor. "After her freshman year, she was determined to make a difference in the MIT Latino student community," he said. "She, along with several other female students, founded a Latina sorority (Phi Delta Upsilon, La Fuerza de Damas Unidas) aimed at creating positive interaction among female students in the Latino community, and the MIT general community. Desiree's leadership has been in the forefront of this movement."

Fighting back tears, Ms. Ramirez said, "I'd like to accept this award not for myself but on behalf of the entire Chicano community at MIT," all of whom she said come from working-class families in Texas and California. "Although my family doesn't really know what MIT is or or what I could possibly be doing here, it hit home when I told them that I got this award in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King... My stepfather, with a seventh-grade education, said it best: that if I, as a Mexican-American woman, can receive an award in the name of Dr. King, his dreams are coming true."

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Ramirez was one of the key students involved in creating the MIT Latino Cultural Center (LCC) in the summer of 2002. The initiative was in response to serious concerns expressed by the Latino community on campus about "feeling under-supported by the Office of Minority Education, the Division of Student Life, and the Latino faculty."