It is our pleasure to present you with the Mike Bender Award. Mike Bender was born in New Jersey in 1909, and soon moved to New York City where he lived until his all too-early death in 1975. Like many children of poor immigrant parents, he started work at an early age to help support himself and his family. From boyhood when he was selling newspapers on the New York City trains until the time of his retiring from his small furniture store, he was a working man nearly every day of his life.
Whoever knew him, knew his great respect for knowledge, his wide range of interests, and his great curiosity about the world. So it seemed appropriate to his family that this award is given in his name to someone pursuing the formal education that he himself was unable to complete.
The family of Morris Bender has established a memorial endowment to the Gallatin School of Individualized Study of New York University known as The Mike Bender Award. This award is available to both undergraduate and graduate students.
The Mike Bender Award will be given to a student(s) in the Gallatin School whose internship work will exemplify and promote the ideals of compassion, understanding, and tolerance among people, thereby creating a better and kinder human society. Only Gallatin students are eligible to apply for the Mike Bender Award. The student may work in the humanities, arts, or sciences.
Grants may be used in the fall and spring semesters.
The selection for this award will be made from a proposal submitted by the candidates. The proposal should be 2-3 pages long and include the following information:
Alina Sloan (BA ’21)
As a graduating senior, Alina is working as an engagement strategy and organizing intern at The Alliance for a Greater New York (ALIGN). ALIGN is a community-based organization working at the intersections of labor, economy, environmental justice, and public health, to help establish a more just, equitable New York where workers will be equipped to address the challenges of climate change, particularly in protecting the most vulnerable communities. Alina will be writing a “digital story map” that will help build support for the coalition’s overall mission in confronting climate change. She will also be creating a “report card” of the candidates for the 2021 New York City elections that will convey their personal views on environmental and racial-justice-related issues.
Meera Brennan (BA ’22)
Meera Brennan is a junior interning at the Mecklenburg County Courthouse in Charlotte, North Carolina. She is serving as a judicial intern for a district court judge, presiding over juvenile and family courts, observing how the justice system impacts individuals and families. Among her varied responsibilities and projects, she is engaged with Race Matters for Juvenile Justice as an ambassador working to develop their youth initiative program. Through her internship, Meera will learn how to become a better and more productive advocate, and her work with the community will help her to spread the ideals of compassion, understanding, and acceptance.
Estela Bobadilla-Cruz (BA ’23)
As a sophomore interning at The Ali Forney Center, a safe haven for LGBTQ+ youth, Estela Bobadilla-Cruz is working with the Manager of Online Engagement, creating client stories for development and advocacy for the organization’s campaign, as well as supporting the care team by ensuring that clients feel safe, supported, and empowered in sharing their vulnerable truth. She hopes her work with the AFC will help to “ignite deep compassion, bravery, and unity” among the LGBTQ community which will promote the Bender Award ideals.
Michael Chumpitaz (BA ’22)
As a Gallatin junior, Michael Chumpitaz is currently interning at Resilience Force, an organization whose mission is to organize what they call the Resilience Workforce, workers who participate in the reconstruction and protection of communities during moments of pandemic or disaster such as hurricanes, floods, and now COVID. Michael is helping to develop a curriculum to teach workers and members about Resilience Force and legislation that supports immigrant workers rights and protections. Michael’s work at Resilience Force centers around the ideologies of understanding and compassion for communities that need tolerance and empowerment which is what Mike Bender strived to promote throughout his life.
Alexia Arrizurieta (BA ’22)
Alexia Arrizurieta is a junior interning at People of the Chaotic Period. As a Curatorial and Design Intern in an immersive theater project, she is hoping to bring awareness to drug abuse and addiction in the queer Latinx community. This internship and goals are consistent with the Mike Bender Internship Award: fostering a space and advocating a mission of compassion and acceptance for those who are often misunderstood by society. By adding survivors of addiction and current or recovering addicts to the narrative, with an emphasis on this issue through a queer Latinx lens, this internship work is helping to promote a more welcoming and tolerant world, calling on members of the community to join the mission to foster love and understanding and spread awareness for healing.