29 Who Shine 2018 Award Winners: University of Massachusetts

Kavita Shah, Westford
UMass Amherst

Kavita balances campus leadership roles with volunteer work and a passionate commitment to research. Her thesis explores the problem of increasing disparity in dental care in the U.S. and analyzes current legislative initiatives under consideration in Massachusetts. Her goal is to offer guidance for future reforms that will address the problems of accessibility and affordability of dental care. As president of the Pre-Dental Society, Kavita offered support and guidance to her peers, and recruited volunteers to offer dental care to underserved and uninsured individuals. As a founding member and vice president of the Delta Kappa Delta Sorority, she contributed to service events including Child Abuse Awareness Week, a fundraising campaign for UNICEF in Syria, and Not Bread Alone, a community meal program. Kavita has been accepted to the Columbia University College of Dental Medicine.

Faculty/Staff Mentor: Kavita chose to recognize Wilmore C. Webley, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Pre-Medical & Pre-Dental Advisor, Department of Microbiology. “Dr. Webley is a passionate professor and extremely hard-working advisor, and most importantly, he is my #1 fan in all academic aspects. He is one of the few faculty members that will constantly make me reach higher and set harder goals for myself.  He always believed in me and for all of that, I thank him.”

Ammany Ty, Dorchester
UMass Boston

Ammany has used her talents as a community leader, writer and artist to highlight the issues of sexual violence and refugee trauma. The daughter of Cambodian refugees, she uses paintings, videos and original spoken word verse to encourage women to break their silence surrounding these issues. Ammany has conducted campus workshops on sexual violence for Asian American female staff and student organizations, and this spring will address the Asian Pacific Americans in Higher Education (APAHE) conference on the subject. At UMass Boston she is a member of the Honors College and a recipient of the Chancellor’s scholarship. She graduates with a 3.9 GPA and a degree in English with a focus on Asian American Studies. Ammany’s goal is to work in a community-based organization in Massachusetts that supports Asian American women.

Faculty/Staff Mentor: Ammany chose to recognize Shirley Tang, Associate Professor, Asian American Studies, School for Global Inclusion and Social Development. “In her course, Cambodian American Culture and Community, I learned about my own family history for the first time. In Asian American Media Literacy, she told me, ‘Be bold. Be brilliant.’ It is because of her guidance and commitment inside and outside the classroom, as well as her encouragement to ‘always do more,’ that I am the person I am today.”

Charlemya Erasme, Dartmouth
UMass Dartmouth

Charlemya is an Endeavor Scholar at UMD who has provided hundreds of hours of service to local civic organizations. She was elected as a Student Government Association Senator for the past three years, and as an SGA Executive Board member and Chair of the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee in her senior year. Seeing the need for students to better understand social inequality, Charlemya co-developed and continues to co-lead a new social justice dialogue series on campus called SPEAK that brings 60-100 students together on a monthly basis to interactively engage in challenging social justice topics. Upon graduation, Charlemya will pursue a master’s degree in Public Health and Policy.

Faculty/Staff Mentor: Charlemya chose to recognize Nicole Williams, Director of the Frederick Douglass Unity House, Multicultural Affairs. “Nicole has been instrumental in my success and development. I cannot imagine my experience at UMass Dartmouth without her support and guidance. Nicole’s dedication to social justice and students continues to inspire me. I am beyond grateful to have crossed paths with a woman of such intellect and warmth. I feel blessed knowing that I can always count on her.”

Tyler Steven Cote, Clarksburg
UMass Lowell

Tyler is the co-founder and director of education for Operation 250, a nonprofit he founded with a group of fellow UMass Lowell students interning in the university’s School of Criminology and Justice Studies. Operation 250 educates students, parents and teachers about the recruitment tactics of violent extremist organizations through its website and programs. The group took third place in a national competition sponsored by the Department of Homeland Security, first place in UMass Lowell’s DifferenceMaker Idea Challenge, and was featured in the UNESCO publication “Youth Waging Peace.” This past March, Tyler’s organization teamed up with UMass Lowell’s Center for Terrorism and Security Studies to bring more than 150 law enforcement and education leaders to campus for a daylong conference, “Combating Hate and Extremism: Fostering Inclusion in our Schools and Communities.” It featured speakers from around the world. He has achieved all of this while earning a near-perfect GPA. After graduation, Tyler plans to continue his work with Operation 250 and hopes to eventually pursue a doctoral degree.

Faculty/Staff Mentor: Tyler chose to recognize Neil Shortland, Assistant Professor and Director, UMass Lowell Center for Terrorism and Security Studies, School of Criminology and Justice Studies. “Before I met Dr. Shortland, I never really wanted to make an impact. He has brought out the best student, person and leader in me. His mentorship has been phenomenal and I want to make a difference for other people as he has for me.”

Charles John Nessralla, Worcester
UMass Medical School

CJ has brought clean water supplies to Nigeria and helped UMass Medical establish a partnership with a medical school in Nicaragua. He’s tutored students at North High School in Worcester and participated in Tom Brady’s favorite charity, Best Buddies, all while maintaining his status as one of the top students in his class.

But it may be his work on behalf of two Boston teenagers that best illustrates CJ’s dedication to helping others. While still a teenager, CJ became a Big Brother to two teens at the Lenox Housing Development in Roxbury, helping them with schoolwork and teaching them to avoid neighborhood gang violence. Alex and Paoli succeeded both academically and personally. Over time, CJ realized that he wanted a more permanent and formally recognized role in Alex and Paoli’s lives, and, with the support of their mother, petitioned the courts to become their legal guardian. CJ worked hard to support and mentor the teenagers while still in college himself. He raised money to support Alex’s attendance at the Xaverian Brothers School in Westwood, and enrolled Paoli in the METCO program so that she could attend Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High School. When CJ matriculated to medical school, he drove Alex and Paoli to and from school every day, listening to his medical school lectures in the car while commuting for three hours a day. CJ’s efforts paid off; his adopted son has won a full scholarship to attend Assumption College in Worcester and his adopted daughter will be attending Merrimack College with almost $30,000 in scholarships in the fall.

CJ has received the highest possible grades in each of his clinical rotations and, accordingly, was elected to the Alpha Omega Alpha medical honor society. He’s been accepted to residency training in orthopaedic surgery at the Massachusetts General Hospital/Harvard Combined Orthopaedics Residency Training Program.

Faculty/Staff Mentor: Charles chose to recognize William (Jerry) Durbin, MD, Professor of Pediatrics, Director of Pediatric Education Division, Director of Pediatric Infectious Disease Consultation Service. “Dr. Durbin has been an extraordinary mentor, having supported me from my first day in the Health Sciences Preparatory Program. He has been there to guide me through every aspect of medical school and has consistently provided me with invaluable advice and support. Not only has he been an outstanding mentor to me, but he is also a phenomenal teacher who truly leads by example. The love and compassion he has for his patients is contagious, and he inspires everyone around him to view their patients in the same light.”