Nyesha Johnson and Bernardette Pinetta were recognized for their community engagement.
Recent UCLA graduates Nyesha Johnson (’17, B.A., Afro-American Studies) and Bernardette Pinetta (’17, B.A., Political Science) were honored with the Social Justice in Education Award by the Education Studies Minor Program (ESM) at the UCLA Department of Education. The award is given to graduating seniors in the ESM Program who have shown a dedication to social justice in education through civic engagement in their community.
Pinetta was involved with UCLA’s Social Justice Advocates, a program overseen by UCLA Residential Life under the Bruin Excellence and Student Transformation Grant.
“I feel thankful and honored to be receiving this recognition since social justice work is not always valued or given the recognition it deserves, so I am extremely appreciative of the emphasis and support the department has for these necessary initiatives,” she says.
Pinetta will attend the University of Michigan this fall to pursue her Ph.D. in Education and Psychology. She hopes to become a professor at a research institution.
“Being a part of the Education Studies Minor helped me to contextualize and understand my educational experiences, both the good and the bad,” Pinetta says. “As someone who had difficulty transitioning to UCLA and not understanding why there was such an educational gap between my peers, the Education Studies Minor helped me to connect to people who were experiencing something similar and really understand the landscape of educational inequities and how to change oppressive systems. It helped to empower and motivate me to make a difference in my community and I couldn’t be more grateful for the professors and teachers’ assistants that led critical discussions within my courses.”
Johnson served as facilitator for UCLA Academic Supports Program’s 10-week Winter and Spring internship course. Working with a group of first and second-year undergraduates to help develop their personal, leadership, academic, and professional skills she led their development through individual and group activities, academic readings and journal assignments, one-on-one meetings, and internal and external community service outings. Johnson also served as the ASP’s retention coordinator, representing Black students at UCLA on the Campus Retention Committee.
“The retention project that I worked for has greatly helped me to develop holistic skills of empowerment such as self-learning, peer-organizing, community service, and self-advocacy,” wrote Johnson in a statement for the Social Justice Award. “Through this experience I have seen the direct impact that changes to policies can have on the increase of spaces and resources for Students of Color on a University campus.
Johnson was an undergraduate student researcher in the Black Male Institute’s Sister-to-Sister course , examining ways to support and retain Black female college students through graduation and beyond.
“As a peer counselor, I encouraged and challenged students to initiate their own learning and to be an active learner in their own right,” she notes. “I am constantly working with students on building [their] holistic development. I appreciate the beauty of engaging with people and helping them achieve their goals.”
Courtesy of Estela Diaz