JFK Winner Looks to Build ‘Critical Consciousness’ As Future Educator


When Chris Walkes entered UMass Boston as a freshman four years ago, he said he had no idea who, or what, he wanted to be. It wasn’t until he became a peer mentor at the university that he realized he could use his voice to become a driving force behind education reform.“I didn’t know I was interested in educating or teaching at all,” he said, adding that the relationships he was able to build with his students during mentoring were transformative. “I knew from that moment on that I wanted to enter education.”

Walkes, who will graduate this month with a degree in English and a minor in secondary education, is the 42nd recipient of the John F. Kennedy Award for Academic Excellence, the highest honor given to UMass Boston graduates. He will address the Class of 2018 during the undergraduate commencement exercises at the TD Garden.

Professor Denise Patmon, who was one of three professors to nominate Walkes for the JFK award, actively recruited him to apply for a writing tutor position at Calderwood Writing Centers in 2016.

“He is a compassionate individual who is dedicated to high quality teaching for all students,” Patmon wrote in Walkes’s nomination letter. “He has a sincere interest in learning from and teaching others.  He is a young man with potential and a vision to make a difference.”

In 2017, Walkes went on to become a tutor coordinator for Another Course to College (ACC), a college preparatory high school in Hyde Park.

“I fell in love with the community at ACC,” he said. “Just seeing the social justice work that’s being done there, the strong relationships between the teachers and students—and even between the students and themselves—really drew me to that school.”

Walkes was drawn to a different school last summer when he applied for the Institute for Recruitment …

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