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MIT's Black Achievers Complete Assignments

Cheryl L. Blankenship, associate bursar in Student Services, and Daniel E. Hastings, associate professor in aeronautics and astronautics, have spent the last several months volunteering their time for activities on behalf of young people. Their work is part of a commitment each made earlier this year when they were named YMCA Black Achievers.

Once a year the Black Achievers Program recognizes more than 100 people from around the Greater Boston area for "exemplary professional accomplishments and commitment to community service," according to Anna M. Williams, executive director of the program.

However, she continued in an address to this year's Achievers, "Bestowing an honor on an individual tells only half the story. Individuals succeed because they were supported and nurtured by a community that cared about that individual." As a result, Black Achievers are asked to volunteer 40 hours of their time over the following year to a community-service project or projects concerning youth.

Ms. Blankenship is fulfilling that commitment through one principal project and three other efforts. First, she is working on an outreach project for minority parents with the Franklin Elementary School in Newton. For that project she has surveyed parents on their attitudes toward education. According to a letter from Dr. Granville Harris, principal of the school, "The purpose [of the survey] is to provide the school with information, ideas, and opportunities for more productive interactions with minority parents."

Ms. Blankenship is also working with Training, Inc., in Boston, which helps prepare people for the job market. In addition, she has signed up to work on the Black College Fair to be held at MIT on October 10, and will help produce the 1993 Black Achievers' banquet.

Professor Hastings will fulfill his 40-hour commitment by also working on the Black College Fair. Now in its fifth year, the fair attracts some 2,000 students from high schools around New England. The goal of the fair "is to increase the awareness of and participation in higher-education opportunities within historically black colleges and universities," according to information on last year's fair.

Admissions counselors from historically black colleges and universities are on hand at the fair to answer students' questions-last year 20 such schools were represented-and students can participate in a variety of workshops on such subjects as financial aid, scholarship programs, and college admissions requirements.

To become Black Achievers, Ms. Blankenship and Professor Hastings were nominated by colleagues at MIT. The nomination letters written for both easily explain why they were chosen to represent the Institute in this year's program.

Writes Bursar Shirley M. Picardi of Ms. Blankenship: "Cheryl is an outstanding leader at MIT as demonstrated by the multiple roles and activities she has engaged in during her four years here, [including] associate bursar, freshman advisor, Planning Calendar Committee for minority student events, Commencement volunteer, and panelist in an MIT course organized by the Women's Studies Program. . .

"She excels in her commitment to MIT community activities as demonstrated by cooking and hosting a feast on behalf of the Bursar's Office for 60 students and staff during MIT's Kwanzaa celebration in December 1989. . .

"Cheryl is proactive, energetic, and a creative problem solver. As a catalyst for change and a mentor, Cheryl motivates others to participate, seek, and achieve!"

Dr. Earll M. Murman, professor and head of the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics, wrote of Professor Hastings: "[He] is presently director of MIT's NASA Space Grant Program.. and is also co-director of the Space Power and Propulsion Laboratory. Dan Hastings, in addition to these leadership roles, carries a normal academic load of teaching two subjects a year, supervises five to six graduate students, participates in professional activities outside of MIT, and participates in the life and vitality of the department through committee assignments, discussion groups, and special task forces.

"I can not imagine a better nominee.than Professor Dan Hastings. He is strongly recognized within our department and within the aerospace engineering community as an outstanding individual who has many accomplishments to his credit already.

"I know that selection in this program would be rewarding to Dan and would further his position as a role model for youth within the black community. Dan and I have discussed this particular matter many times and I know that he feels a strong sense of responsibility to being a role model."

If you know of someone like Ms. Blankenship or Professor Hastings that you believe has earned the distinction of Black Achiever, send a note within the week to Clarence G. Williams, special assistant to the president, in Rm 3-221. Dr. Williams is the MIT liaison for the YMCA Black Achievers Program. Completed nominations for the 1993 Black Achievers are due October 9.

According to Denise Littlejohn, associate director of the program, nominees must have a history of work achievement, be employed at MIT for two years, have the potential for further advancement, and be willing to volunteer 40 hours of their time over the following year.

A version of this article appeared in the September 23, 1992 issue of MIT Tech Talk (Volume 37, Number 7).

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