by Eric Stearley
Northfield High School graduate and current junior at Indiana University Mackenzie Wright recently received Indiana University’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Building Bridges Award for her work promoting equality, diversity, and empowerment on the university’s campus and in its host city of Bloomington.
The award is given to one undergraduate student each year. Wright was selected from more than 30,000 students to receive the award based on the following criteria:
• Demonstrated passion for change or improvement to fulfill the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
• Demonstrated leadership in promoting equality, equity, diversity, and justice
• Demonstrated practices of respect and non-violence
• Demonstrated commitment to empowerment
• Developed innovative measures for the advancement of diversity
Among other things, Wright was selected because of her volunteer work with Middle Way House, an organization dedicated to helping victims of domestic and sexual violence escape abusive situations and build a new life for themselves and their family. Wright was placed with the organization for her four years as an undergraduate through her Cox Engagement Scholarship.
“The more I got into it the more I felt passionate about it. I just felt really connected to it,” said Wright. “I guess that’s what led me to just go above and beyond. One in four women experience sexual violence in their life, so it’s something very prevalent in our society. It’s something I feel compelled to help change.”
Wright works in the Middle Way House Daycare, community reception, and as an on-scene advocate, which means that she goes into hospitals and talks with survivors, providing them with support and resources. She also co-founded an IU Middle Way House chapter last year to bring awareness of domestic and sexual violence to campus, and raise awareness and funding for Middle Way House.
Middle Way House Community Programs Director Debra Morrow nominated Wright for the award. A former victim of domestic violence, Morrow has dedicated her life to helping others through situations similar to the one she found herself in.
“While Mackenzie Wright serves those receiving services from Middle Way House with a motivation derived by the qualities Dr. Martin Luther King embodied, she also serves the IU student population with the same commitment,” Morrow wrote in Wright’s nomination letter. “Her ability to balance the needs of our agency and the needs of the students clearly takes a sincere commitment and Mackenzie is motivated to fulfill this commitment. Her passion to empower individuals that she works with in her role as a direct service volunteer in our agency is inspiring.”
Wright received the award during the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day Leadership Breakfast on Jan. 20.
“Just being there was really surreal,” said Wright. “There was a Freedom Rider there. Just to be in the same room was crazy to me.”
Wright is pursuing a degree in speech pathology as she continues to volunteer at Middle Way House.
“I actually thought about changing my major in order to do something like that,” said Wright. “I’ve thought before about bringing something like that to Wabash because as you know there’s not really anything for survivors at all. There’s no resources really that I know of.” The cause has been something that has really interested me. I know that even if I don’t end up doing something like that, I know I’ll continue to volunteer somewhere like Middle Way House.”