Two University of Maine students, Taylor Cray and Moriah Geer, were recently awarded Sharon Barker Student Activism Awards. The award is given to those who are passionate about activism and are leaders in the community.
Sharon Barker was prominent in the field of social work at UMaine and was the founder and director of the Women’s Resource Center until her retirement in 2015.
Students or student organizations could be nominated or nominate themselves for the award by filling out a form and sending in an essay.
Geer, a social work graduate student, began her work with a project that required students work closely with an organization that supported a bill and advocate for that bill before the legislature. Geer chose the Lift 2.0 bill, which had been sponsored by the Senate every year to provide aid on the issues of poverty. Gill worked with the Maine Equal Justice Organization on the Lift 2.0 bill and was recently hired by the same organization. After seeing the work Geer did on the Lift 2.0 bill, one of her professors nominated her for the Sharon Barker Award.
She chose this particular bill because she believes that “everyone should have the tools they need and support that they need to be able to build their best life, regardless of race, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability or any aspect that might have been a barrier to that.”
Geer is currently a member of the Old Town School Board and works on the Center for Community Inclusion and Disability Studies Community Advisory Board. She also has plans to run for a seat in the state legislature in the fall of 2022.
“Being given this award reaffirms [to me] that I am on a pathway that will allow me to devote my energy towards my goals,” Geer said. “I am honored to be winning [this award] and I believe that having this award shows that I have a history of being active in this work of making our state a better place, and it gives me more credibility as I go on to build my career.”
Cray, a political science and women’s, gender, and sexuality studies student, originally submitted an essay nominating a friend. In turn, she was nominated by some of her friends for the award.
“Much of the activist work that I, and many others, have done throughout the past year has been incredibly emotionally taxing. Many of the challenges that I faced doing this work seemed insurmountable at the time,” Cray said. “Winning this award will most likely help [me] make my way into future positions. Activist work is rewarding, and I would never stop advocating for the things that I believe in.”
Cray said she has plans to pursue a higher degree that would allow her to continue working in communities and aiding others where need be.
The winners of this contest and the Maryann Hartman essay contest were honored at a ceremony on March 27 in the Buchanan Alumni House.