Alumni Speakers Focus on Service and Justice at MLK Day Assembly

The theme of Marist School’s all-school assembly in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day was service as a pathway to justice. Through a collaborated effort between Marist’s Diversity Team and the Marist Alumni Office, students, faculty, and staff were inspired by the Marist graduates and faculty members who spoke eloquently on the topic. Marist values and Church teachings focus on service to others, and Martin Luther King, Jr. himself famously said, “Everybody can be great...because anybody can serve. You only need a heart full of grace, a soul generated by love.” It was energizing to hear engaging stories of servant leadership, all of which provided excellent models to which Marist students can aspire.
Breana Ware ’07, with a bachelor’s degree from Boston College and a law degree from Harvard Law School, heralded the thought that justice only prevails if people speak out and act. Currently associate legal counsel at Kennesaw State University, Ware spoke of three important things she learned at Marist: the importance of reflection, the need to voice your values through direct action, and the value of courage.” Serving others,” she said, “sometimes requires sacrifice, but it is always worth it.”

Jordan Snellings ’11 taught, coached, and served as inclusion and diversity coordinator at Marist School from 2017-2021. He is currently assistant athletic director at Mount Pisgah Christian School in Johns Creek, Georgia and serves on the Board of Directors for the Society of Mary-sponsored Reach for Excellence program, of which he was a graduate in the 2007 cohort. Snellings asserted that Marist School and the Reach for Excellence program, now led by Dr. Linda Lehmil, provided him with monumental guidance and opportunities that transformed him into a servant leader who strives to work for the common good and to create a more just world. He believes his Marist and Reach experiences gave him a strong work ethic and taught him resilience, leadership, strategic thinking, adaptability, dedication, and discipline. He continues to be inspired by the Maya Angelou quote, “When you learn, teach, when you get, give.” He closed his presentation saying, “People who make a difference in your life are those who care for you the most.”

Sarah Todd Hammer ’20, currently an undergraduate at Davidson College studying psychology and communication studies, plans to pursue disability justice work as a career. She acquired a physical handicap when she was 10, and, since then, has been passionately telling her story through her writing (she is a three-time published author), and, more recently, on social media. She shared two essential concepts that she learned while at Marist. In Mr. Brendan Murphy’s Holocaust class, she was taught that everyone has a role to play when facing injustices and we must all step in to make a difference. In Dr. Kathryn Hamrlik’s Peace and Justice class she grasped the concept that every person has potential. She espouses the importance of empathy as the foundation of social justice work and encouraged Marist students to center themselves in others’ perspectives even while developing their own passions. She encouraged everyone present to always ask, “What can I do to make a difference.”

Amanda Glover Bradley ’11, also a 2007 Reach for Excellence graduate and a recently inducted member of Marist’s Blue & Gold Athletics Circle, empowered all present when she said, “You decide how you will contribute to your community, if you want to serve, and how you will do justice.” She says that true peace can only be achieved in the presence of justice. She believes justice is an action involving doing what is right and is the ultimate expression of love for fellow man. Bradley shared that she “does justice” by pursuing pro bono work alongside the high-stakes business litigation work she does at Bondurant Mixson & Elmore, the law firm at which she works. Referencing a Martin Luther King, Jr. quote—"The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice."—Bradley stated that doing justice work is not necessarily about the outcome; it is about lending support so that inevitably justice will prevail.

In addition to the Marist alumni speakers, Business, Computer Science, & Engineering Department Head Mr. Christopher Michaud spoke about his volunteer work teaching for the Society of Mary-sponsored Centro Hispano Marista program, which aids adults in attaining their GED diplomas. He professed his volunteer work to be both “exciting and humbling” and is continually inspired to work with those who have committed to study at Centro even as they pursue full-time jobs and raise families. Importantly, as he addressed all those present at the assembly, he remarked, “Equitable education opportunities for all is social justice.” Dr. Leticia Valencia, program director for Centro, reinforced Mr. Michaud’s messages saying that the program welcomes everyone with compassion and dignity. In a heartfelt way, she said, “Helping others achieve their dreams can fill your heart and enrich your soul like nothing else.”

For faculty and staff, the assembly built on professional development held earlier in the week, which focused on ways to help each student at Marist feel a sense of belonging. Marist’s work surrounding diversity, inclusion, and belonging aligns with the belief that all people share a human dignity because we are all created by God, and it ties perfectly into the concept of service as a pathway to justice.

Marist’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Assembly was followed by the Marist Goes Global fair where students, faculty, staff, and family members came together to host 25 tables representing different countries. This event provided a unique opportunity for everyone to share their cultural pride, fostering community through the exchange of food, traditions, dancing, and music. Beyond the celebration, Marist Goes Global had a meaningful impact on supporting refugees and migrants. The event, organized by Marist’s Share the Journey club, served as a platform to raise funds for organizations dedicated to assisting these individuals, both locally in Atlanta and globally. The Marist community supported these important causes, demonstrating our collective commitment to making a positive difference in the lives of others.

View photos from the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Assembly.

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An Independent Catholic School of the Marist Fathers and Brothers