Olivia Gardner & Ruth WoldemichaelBoulder, CO Award Year: 2020
Galvanized by racist incidents around the country and on campus, student activists Olivia Gardner and Ruth Woldemichael decided to bring about broad change that would enable Black, Indigenous, and other people of color to be safe, heard, and valued. While the easiest route would have been to focus on simply earning their degrees, Olivia and Ruth said that doing so would have contradicted why they chose to come to CU-Boulder in the first place and would have made them feel complicit if they did not speak up about racial injustice. “So many students feel harmed on campus,” said Ruth, at the time a junior and the president of CU-Boulder’s Black Student Alliance. “It goes back to the old adage of ‘if not us, then who?’ Recognizing the legacy that we move from,” said Olivia, who graduated in May 2020 with a degree in ethnic women and gender studies. “This work did not start with us and, unfortunately, will not end with us.” Olivia is currently co-founder of Transformative Teach to support and work with underrepresented communities, school districts and students through school-to-prison-pipeline prevention strategies and implicit bias trainings.
Olivia and Ruth used their award to help establish the Center for African and African American Studies (CAAAS) at the University of Colorado-Boulder.
Olivia used the rest of her award to build on the operations of Transformative Teach and to provide scholarships for high school students.
Ruth used a portion of her award for tuition fees for her final semester at the University of Colorado-Boulder and is continuing to work with CAAAS before she graduates. She is exploring several ideas for how to use the remainder of the funds to support projects centered on Black voices at the CAAAS.