MLK Scholar, Marleyna George at the Scholars 2023 cording ceremony
Marleyna George, ’23

The Martin Luther King Jr. Scholars program at NYU is a leadership program dedicated to the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Grounded in values of civic engagement, leadership, academic excellence, and research, scholars selected for the program are committed to leaving their mark on the world through activism. They take part in a number of enriching activities throughout their time at NYU including seminars, research, travel colloquia, and connecting with other scholars. In addition, program staff and faculty serve as mentors and provide scholars with support and guidance.  

We chatted with recent NYU graduate and proud MLK Scholars alum, Marleyna George. She reflects on her time in the program and offers advice to incoming scholars. 

MLK Scholars in Ghana
A group of MLK Scholars

How would you describe the MLK Scholars program in your own words?

To me the MLK Scholars program is a cohort of students dedicated to social change through activism and community building. We come from different backgrounds and experiences, like all NYU students, but are united through a common cause and an inherent passion for advocacy. The program is an opportunity to engage and build bonds with like-minded students across the University and have a support system throughout your NYU experience, as you grow into your role as a student at the University and an activist in life.

Something important I learned through my time in MLK Scholars is that one of my strongest assets in social change and diversity, equity, and inclusion work is me: my story, my personality, my authenticity, my experience.

What have been some of the takeaways and highlights of the program for you?

Something important I learned through my time in MLK Scholars is that one of my strongest assets in social change and diversity, equity, and inclusion work is me: my story, my personality, my authenticity, my experience. The moments I was able to be vulnerable and open with my peers in MLK Scholars were the most rewarding. That’s because they allowed me to be myself with my fellow Scholars and encouraged reciprocity. This made us all closer as time went on. This really shined through on our trip to Vietnam during our senior year. We reunited as a group for the first time in three years because of the pandemic. And in many ways it felt like no time had passed. 

What makes the program so special?

The staff are so dedicated to its success, and the success of the students make the program special. Jessica and Tanya have worked with the program in several capacities for over fifteen years. Leya and Capria are new. But in the short time they have worked there, they have truly become staples and faces of the MLK scholars family. Deyna goes above and beyond to support the program in her role. And I was lucky to be able to work with all of them as a community engagement coordinator. We, as scholars, would be at a loss without them.

How has the MLK Scholars program impacted your time at NYU? How has it prepared you for life after NYU?

The program made my time at NYU possible, financially and socially. As a commuter the MLK scholars were some of my closest friends when I had no time to stay for extracurricular events after classes. I’ve left NYU with lifelong friends and connections across states, countries, and career paths whom I know I can count on in the future should I need them. And I’ve learned that with committed friends and allies, amazing change is possible within your community–a lesson I will take with me moving forward. 

What advice do you have for incoming MLK Scholars?

Invest in making connections within the program as much as you can. What you put in is what you will get out. Furthermore, the program encourages you to use your voice for change. Do so. In the words of MLK, an injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. Speak up when changes must be made. And have faith in the power you have to enact those changes. Do not shy away from the strength you possess. Go forward and be leaders. And most importantly, make choices you can be proud of while having fun!

Two NYU MLK scholars smiling at the camera
2023 MLK Scholars program cording ceremony
Two MLK Scholars writing letters
MLK Scholars letter writing event
MLK Staff and Student smiling
At the 2023 travel colloquium in Vietnam
Two scholars speaking in front of a poster board
MLK Scholars at a 2023 research symposium
a group of MLK scholars smiling
The 2023 research symposium for MLK Scholars

Thank you Marleyna for sharing your experience with us! To learn more about the MLK Scholars program, visit their website. There you’ll also find information on how to apply to the program.

Camille Wilson is the Associate Director of Strategic Student Communications in the Division of Enrollment Management at NYU. She’s spent the last decade in Higher Education working to nurture and inspire student leaders by supporting their holistic growth and development. When she’s not mentoring college students, she’s helping her readers toast to life’s memorable moments on her blog.