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Aaron Wilson Memorial Scholarship


Who was Aaron Wilson?:
To view the full obituary please click here

Originally from South Hadley, MA, Aaron was a tireless organizer, writer, leader, and activist for civil rights and social justice who devoted his regrettably short life to improving the world. He died unexpectedly of heart failure in his sleep on December 21, 2006 at the age of 35.
In Aaron graduated from UMass with a major in History and a minor in African-American Studies and went on to earn two Master’s degrees, one in Social Studies from Teacher’s College and one with honors in Organizational Management. While at UMass he co-founded the UMass Cannabis Reform Coalition (1989). He later co-founded the Marijuana Reform Party of New York, which twice placed a candidate on the gubernatorial ballot.

From 1995-2000, Aaron served as the Director of the Partnership for Responsible Drug Information (PRDI) in New York City, which provided a safe space for local social and political leaders to discuss alternatives to the War on Drugs. In addition to organizing and publicizing forums and other major events, he conducted extensive research in order to write and publish The PRDI Guide to Organizing Forums on Drug Issues and The PRDI Drug Policy Resources Directory for the Media, both landmark publications. While at PRDI, Aaron also helped to set up the Voluntary Committee of Lawyers, an association of lawyers and judges encouraging examination of the consequences of the drug war.

After returning to Western Massachusetts in 1999, Aaron was active in politics both locally in Amherst, including as a member of the Amherst Town Meeting, and at the State House. He provided support for college students organizing at campuses across the nation and helped organize one of the first national leadership conferences of Students for Sensible Drug Policy. He served as the Chairman of the Board for the Drug Policy Forum of Massachusetts (DPFMA), a lobbying group that fought for needle exchange, decriminalization, and access to medical marijuana, bringing experts and patients including his good friend Marcy Duda to testify at Congressional hearings. He also served on the Board of Directors for the Hampshire County United Way.

Beginning in 2001, Aaron served as Executive Director for the Western Massachusetts Committee for Occupational Safety and Health (COSH) in Springfield, where he trained union members in improving health and safety conditions. He helped broker the Alliance for a Healthy Tomorrow, an collaboration between labor and environmental groups promoting safer alternatives to toxic chemical use.

Aaron Wilson Memorial Scholarship

1 $2,400 scholarship provided for by Aaron Wilson’s family from donations given in his memory.

In order to apply you must 1) be in Good Academic Standing with the University; 2) have completed STPEC seminar I with a C or better before the beginning of the Spring 2013 semester; 3) have financial need.

The application consists of:
A 3-5 page essay detailing how, as a STPEC major, you have applied your STPEC education to day to day life through campus activities, community service, activism, and internships. Include in your essay a statement about how this scholarship will enhance and benefit your activism and also a statement explaining your financial need for this scholarship.
Applicants must also complete an application form which must be turned in with the essay.

Applications should be turned in ONLY to Deborah Reiter, STPEC’s Program Coordinator. They may be left in her STPEC mailbox in a sealed manila envelope or e-mailed to as a pdf attachment.

Our selection process is as follows:
The essays will be given a number and be anonymous when reviewed. STPEC student office staff members will review the essays and will present their choices for scholarship awards. We will then have a meeting where all of office staff, paid and unpaid, will review, discuss, and award the scholarship.

Deadline for application is Friday, February 22nd, and scholarships will be awarded at the end of March 2013. You can find applications online by clicking here or in the STPEC office mailboxes.

STPEC is honored that Aaron’s family has chosen to grant memorial funds given in Aaron’s name to a scholarship for a financially needy and politically active STPEC student. The recipient of the Aaron Wilson Memorial Scholarship will be expected to send a letter of thanks and acknowledgement to Aaron Wilson’s family.