2018 Alumni Association Awards

This year's Distinguished Alumni recipients. Top from left: Cheryl Starr Boillat '79, M.Ed. '97, Amma Bemma Adwetewa-Badu '15, VP of Advancement Robert P. Ziomek '89, Jay T. Dalessio '94, President James F. Birge, Janine Driver '92, and W. David Halbert '03. 

The MCLA Alumni Association held its annual awards ceremony on Saturday, September 22, during Fall Fest & Homecoming Weekend. This year's recipients join the ranks of past distinguished alumni, all of whom embody the ideals of compassion, leadership, and dedicated service that define the core values of what an education from MCLA represents.

This event recognizes the achievements of past graduates of the College by presenting the following awards: Distinguished Alumnus Award, Service to the College Award, Humanitarian Award, Young Alumnus Award, and Outstanding Educator Award.

Outstanding Service to the College Award

Cheryl starr boillat '79, m.ed. '97

Cheryl received her Bachelor of Science in education in 1979, her M.Ed. in 1997, and a certification in special education from the College. She served as a Reading Specialist at Conte Middle School in North Adams. In 2008, she moved to the high school level to teach English Language Arts for students with reading disabilities. She has taught in the North Adams Public Schools for over 25 years focusing on Middle School and High School Literacy. Currently, she is involved in the development of a Teacher Mentoring Program and serves as a mentor to new teachers. She moved into an administrative role as 8th Grade leader in 2003, and in 2012 left the classroom to become a program coordinator of special education for the North Adams Public Schools.

Cheryl joined the Alumni Board because of its important roles in helping the College expand its message on the value of education, supporting student achievement and community engagement, and because she wishes to see MCLA continue to be supported by its alumni, community, and state. Cheryl is proud to contribute to the Board's mission to the Alumni of MCLA. She was first elected to the Alumni Association Board in 2009 and has served as the Board’s president since 2015.


Young Alumnus Award

Amma bemma adwetewa-badu '15

Ama received her Master’s degree in English from Clark University in 2017, and her Bachelor of Arts in early childhood education from the MCLA in 2015. (She originally planned to graduate with the class of 2016 but graduated early with the class of 2015.) While at MCLA, she interned with the College’s IEP program.
She was named a Newman Civic Fellow for 2015-2016. (The Newman Civic Fellowship recognizes and supports community-committed students who have demonstrated an investment in finding solutions for challenges facing communities throughout the country.) MCLA interim president, Cynthia Farr Brown had this to say about Ama:

“Ama Bemma Adwetewa-Badu, a graduating senior at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA), exemplifies a high level of dedication and commitment to identifying the main causes of hunger and homelessness within her local community. Initially, as a participant of the LEAD Academy program, a summer service leadership program for freshmen, she saw a need at the local soup kitchen and continued her service into the academic year. Through her civic leadership experiences, she developed a service program called “A Hand Up, Not A Hand Out.” This program seeks to educate others on hunger and homelessness and provide service opportunities at the local soup kitchen and food pantry. Ama Bemma’s campus involvement includes Coordinating Vice President (CVP) of Student Government Association, LEAD Academy Staff, Christian Fellowship Club, and Campus Conversations on Race. As CVP, she connects with clubs and organizations to find out their needs and acts as a valuable resource to help strengthen and expand campus life. As a leader, Ama Bemma encourages and embraces diversity, and exhibits strong problem-solving skills at all times. Ama Bemma has positively impacted her community, and her intuitiveness and drive motivates all those around her to actively observe and respond to community needs too.”

At the time of her Fellowship award, Ama said this about herself and her volunteerism:

“I am driven to engage with the area of need that I find most prevalent— hunger and homelessness. When I was in high school, my church would have cookouts and I would be on the lookout for people walking by who might be in need of some lunch. A year into my college career, I found a local soup kitchen where I could volunteer, and very soon I was able to make it into a service program on my campus, which I now coordinate. The service I do does not feel like work; instead it feels like something that not only needs to be done, but must be done because of the impact it has on community members. The skills I have gained from this experience have allowed me to expand my service program to include educating the campus on these issues and coordinating events every so often to provide meals to the community. My civic engagement has also taught me how aware people need to be of the issues, resources, and opportunities that are available in any given community. Once you catch sight of what needs to be done, I believe that anything is possible.”

Ama is currently a second year Ph.D. student at Cornell University. Her primary areas of interest are contemporary Anglophone poetry, experimental poetics, the avant-garde, and Black diaspora studies. Her research focuses on the intersection of politics and aesthetics as articulated through avant-garde poetics, 20th/21st century Anglophone poetry, and 20th/21st century Anglophone Black diasporic literature and culture, especially poetry. She has presented papers at several conferences, including the African Literature Association Conferences and the Northeast Modern Language Association Conferences.

Ama most recent project, “Iterations of Identity: Black Diasporic Poetics and the Politics of Form,” positions these interests in a comparative aesthetic perspective, with a focus on examining avant-garde poetics through a primary lens of close-reading and aesthetics, including a study of the politics of aesthetics as dictated by neo-colonialism in West-Africa and the Caribbean, and racialized climates constructed by the global white gaze.

She worked as an adjunct ESL instructor at Worcester State University in 2017, an academic writing tutor at Quinsigamond Community College from September 2015 - June 2017. Ama was also a teaching assistant for the Introduction to Literature class while a student at MCLA in the Fall 2014 semester.


Outstanding Educator Award

JAson "jay" Dalessio '94

Jason Dalessio, of Wilbraham MA, graduated from North Adams State College in 1994 with a Bachelor’s Degree. Dalessio began his teaching career at Minnechaug Regional High School in 2003 as an Alternative Learning Program Teacher, a program dedicated to helping those who struggled in a traditional classroom. In his third year of teaching, Dalessio was approached by a group of students wanting to form the Lumberjack Club; a club dedicated to community service. Dalessio acted as advisor for this club until 2015, when he resigned to spend more time with family. The following year, in 2016, Dalessio founded a new club called the Above the Influence Club. He became the advisor here as well and worked with club members to raise awareness on subjects such as bullying, substance abuse, suicide prevention, domestic violence awareness, etc. Through student testimonials, one can see how much his work within these clubs, as well as the classroom setting, effected these students. Below are a few notable quotes from these testimonials.

“He made me feel valued. He always fought for what was right, no matter what forces were working against him, and it empowered me. . .. When I felt dumb - he was the reassurance. No matter what I wanted to do, no matter how big or how small, he showed the same amount of incredible enthusiasm. He knew that a lot of us came from difficult situations, and he took us ALL on without a second thought. We were all a family.” – M. Halpin

“My mom was battling cancer starting my eighth grade year and come my senior year it had spread to her brain. By that point the plan was to drop out and do what I can for my mom. . .. Every day he did what he could to make sure I did my absolute best as well as I could and never hesitate to ask for help if I needed it. Thanks to. . . Mr. Dalessio I graduated high school and my mom watched me walk across that stage.” – L. Tracy

“He makes students feel worthy and appreciated. He is a safe space for some and welcoming to all.” – C. Olstein

“I consider Mr. D one of the biggest influences in my life, and the person who made me realize that caring for others is as important as caring for yourself.” – P. Wysocka


Distinguished Alumna Award


Janine graduated from Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts in 1992 with a degree in English/Communications. Today, Janine is a body language expert and the New York Times Bestselling author of You Say More Than You Think: A 7-Day Plan on Using the New Body Language to Get What You Want. You Say More Than You Think has been translated into eleven languages and has received a starred review from Publisher's Weekly. Janine is a body language contributor on NBC's Today show. She has appeared on The Dr. OZ Show, The Rachael Ray Show, The Nancy Grace Show, CNN's Headline News, ABC's Good Morning America, and The Nate Berkus Show. Janine has been quoted in The New York Times, The Washington Post, and in magazines such as Cosmopolitan and Psychology Today.

Immediately after graduating from MCLA and prior to becoming a published author, Janine landed a job as a federal law enforcement officer with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) within the United States Department of Justice for sixteen years. While at ATF, Janine trained over 100,000 lawyers, judges, and law enforcement officers in the ATF, FBI, CIA, Scotland Yard Police, Hong Kong Police, and state and local police how to read body language and detect deception. In 2008, Janine retired from ATF and opened the Body Language Institute, in Washington, DC, and is owner of Lyin’ Tamer Education, LLC. The institute is an elite certification program that offers award-winning advanced body language training.

Janine was MCLA’s 2011 Convocation speaker.


Alumni Humanitarian Award

W. david halbert '03

A native of Framingham, David Halbert graduated from MCLA with the class of 2003 with a Bachelor’s degree in English and communications. He has utilized his acquired knowledge in a broad way since his graduation. Currently residing in the city of Boston, he is completing his extensive tenure in academia with a Master of Public Administration degree from Northeastern University. He has also obtained two graduate certificates from Northeastern, one in Public Policy analysis and another in Nonprofit Sector, Philanthropy & Social Change.

Since his departure from the college, David has put together a polished resume of civil service and public work, all from behind the scenes. He has served as a legislative aide for two different City Councilors in Boston, and even with his workload in that role, he campaigned for one councilor’s mayoral run. David’s first post-graduate position was working in the office of then State Treasurer Timothy Cahill.

David then went on to work for the nonprofit company Project Bread, where he worked on campaigns such as a Walk for Hunger and represented the business in meetings with sponsors. After a year and a half, he left Project Bread to work in the office of former Governor Deval Patrick, serving as a scheduler on the governor’s staff. After leaving his position as an aide on local legislation, David began work for Trans Metro Media as an Executive VP of Government & Community Affairs, working on legislative advocacy and transportation policy for the city. After one year in this position, he arrived at the Middlesex County Sheriff’s Office, where he served as the director of scheduling; he has since been promoted to deputy director of community affairs.

David is a board member on the Charles River Rugby Club, East Boston Main Streets, and the East Boston Piers Parks outreach chair. He also serves as the Affirmative Action & Outreach chair for the Boston Ward One Democratic Committee. He was made a member of the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education for two years after his graduation and was a recipient of the Who’s Who in American Colleges & Universities award. David recently celebrated his fourth anniversary to his wife Lauren, who resides with him and their daughter in Boston.




Prior to her arrival at MCLA, she attended the Center for Natural Wellness School of Massage Therapy where she became a licensed massage therapist and started a private practice in Bennington, Vermont.
She then attended MCLA and graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Biology in 2009. While at MCLA she made Dean's List every semester, was inducted into Alpha Lambda Delta and Alpha Chi, and graduated Magna Cum Laude. She was a member of the Biology Club and served as a Teaching Assistant for several upper-level Biology laboratory courses, including Cell Biology. In her senior year she was the recipient of the Biology Achievement Award.
After graduation she continued on to New York Chiropractic College where she earned the degree of Doctor of Chiropractic. During the completion of her graduate degree, she was chosen to be a chiropractic intern at the nation’s largest military teaching hospital, Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland where she provided chiropractic care for Wounded Warriors and Active Duty Military personnel. She also participated in rotations in several allopathic departments.
She is currently a chiropractor in the Burlington, Vermont area for Chittenden County Chiropractic.  She has established a relationship with the area’s teaching hospital, Fletcher Allen Health Care, a University of Vermont affiliate, where she furthers her knowledge in the departments of Spinal Orthopedics, Neuroradiology, Neurosurgery, and Obstetrics.
Since graduating, Tori returns annually to the MCLA campus to present on the field of Chiropractic Medicine to students in Dr. Ann Billetz’s Freshman Biology Seminar.  She was also the Keynote speaker at the 2014 MCLA Undergraduate Research Conference.  
Tori, because of your respect and dedication to the health and well being of humanity, your passion for continual learning, and for your leadership skills in your profession and community.



Copyright 2015 Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts