Nelson Mandela Book Award

AboutAward winners

The Nelson Mandela Book Award was created in the spring of 2014 as a way to honor the life and work of Nelson Mandela after his death on December 5, 2013. The GCC Diversity Standing Committee assumed the role of overseeing and awarding the scholarship in 2015.

Photo credits: South Africa The Good News / was born in segregated South Africa in 1918 and spent his life working to end apartheid and create legal and social equality between black and white South Africans. Jailed as a political prisoner for 27 years, he was elected as president in the first democratic election for the country shortly after his release from prison in 1990. He led the country through major changes, ending government-mandated racial segregation while maintaining peace. He stepped down from the presidency in 1999 in order to help other countries navigate their conflicts while remaining the unofficial cultural leader of South Africa.

This award is given annually at the GCC Foundation Scholarship Awards Ceremony to a GCC student who meets the criteria below. The award consists of a small cash prize and a book chosen by the scholarship committee. The book may be related to the life and work of Nelson Mandela or related to the work of the award winner.

The Nelson Mandela Book Award is made to those who demonstrate commitment to, and action toward, diversity, equity, inclusion, and/or social justice. An awardee’s efforts are consistent with the DEI and Community elements of the GCC Principles of Education, which are noted below and available on the GCC website (

■ Recognize how the foundation of one’s ideals and values emanate from one’s particular background and experience
■ Participate in communities as both teacher and learner, connecting with others, sharing thoughts, and creating knowledge while taking advantage of an open environment that values critical thinking and civil discourse
■ Enhance one’s understanding of various forms of discrimination and oppression while embracing the principles of access to promote equitable opportunity for all in the teaching and learning experience
■ Explore, understand, and respect the tenacity and validity of diverse values and heritage

■ Appreciate the interconnectedness of global events and issues and one’s place in the web of life
■ Develop an environment that encourages active learning and values the differing approaches of all community members

(updated Spring 2022)

We're sorry but this year's application is no longer available.

  • 2023: River King
  • 2022: Amy Cook
  • 2021: Rachel Braidman
    • Rachel was selected for organizing: "The Families for Black Lives Caravan and Radio Show," a live radio show highlighting the music of Black artists and the voices of Black educators, with 93.9 (WRSI "The River") to educate herself and her children more regularly and more deeply on white privilege and the racial inequalities in our community and our country. Rachel wrote, "As we travel together from town to town, we will share in this soundscape, education, and activism together."
  • 2020: Dorinessy Orphee Meledje
    • Dorinessy was selected by the Diversity Standing Committee for her commitment to social justice, especially for women and girls. Dorinessy is working to live a life change and care, with jobs in "conflict resolution, be a diplomat, work within the UNICEF and the UN to bring what is being missed in these organizations but mostly as a lawyer to stand for equity and justice for those who are being used and manipulated by the system."
  • 2019: Nicole McCall
    • Nicole was selected by the Diversity Standing Committee for her work as a translator and her commitment to enabling people of different cultures and backgrounds to overcome language barriers and communicate more effectively. Nicole says, "Especially during these turbulent political times, we need more than ever to understand each other no matter our race, religion or gender. Language translation can help make this possible."
  • 2018: Aimee Salmon 
    • Aimee was selected by the Diversity Standing Committee for her deep ties to the GCC community and surrounding communities. Aimee, an immigrant from the Democratic Republic of Congo, works to improve the lives of English language learners in local communities and the lives of vulnerable families in Congo.
  • 2017: Hunter Kirschner and Sara Howard
    • Hunter was selected because of his endless energy for supporting GCC students of all backgrounds. He pushed our campus to begin the process of implementing a chosen name policy, something which is now coming to fruition – not just at GCC, but at community colleges statewide. In thinking about Nelson Mandela, we also saw connections to his work off-campus with and on behalf of prisoners at the Franklin County House of Corrections.
    • Sara was also selected in 2017. The committee was impressed by her volunteer work with the Amherst Survival Center and work as a volunteer doula. We saw in Sara's application the desire to be both a teacher and a learner in the community, and her ability to recognize injustice and work to change it.
  • 2016: Tasaday Green
    • Tasaday was selected by the Diversity Standing Committee for her work as a peer tutor - she is truly contributing to the GCC community as both a teacher & learner. She is also committed to increasing underrepresented groups in the STEM fields and recognizes how important education is to overcoming adversity.
  • 2015: Tenzin Thutop
    • Leo Hwang, Dean of Humanities and member of the Diversity Standing Committee, said, “Thutop wrote a heartfelt essay dealing with the importance of retaining culture and ethnicity while experiencing dislocation from his Tibetan homeland. Drawing inspiration from Nelson Mandela’s emphasis on education being the ‘most powerful weapon’ to change the world, Thutop is active in sustaining Tibetan culture here in the Valley. Thutop recognizes the challenges and persecution of living under a repressive state, but like Mandela, he has chosen a path that builds and strengthens, and in that way ensures the survival of the important Tibetan culture and customs.”
  • 2014: Joshua Freund