The Lansing/East Lansing chapter of The Links, Incorporated is celebrating Women’s History Month by hosting the White Rose Gala for the fifth consecutive year, and by presenting the ATHENA Young Professional Leadership Award to Jesenia Pizarro, Ph.D. According to the Lansing/East Lansing Links chapter website, the ATHENA Young Professional Leadership Award is presented to emerging women leaders, 40 years of age or younger, who demonstrate excellence, creativity and initiative in their business or profession and provides valuable services to improve the quality of life for others in their communities. Award recipients must clearly serve as a role model for young women both personally and professionally. “When I found out that I received this award, I was so honored and happy to be recognized,” said Pizarro. “It makes me feel like what I do matters, and encourages me to continue.” Dr. Pizarro is an associate professor at Michigan State University in the School of Criminal Justice. For the last 10 years, she has done research at the university focusing on violence and homicide. She has also assisted various police departments throughout the country with violence prevention efforts, specifically in youth violence prevention. “I’m originally from Newark, New Jersey, and growing up surrounded by violence really intrigued me and made me want to study the prevention of violence,” Pizarro said of her work. Pizarro credits her successes in life to those who supported her from an early age. “People like me (inner city kids) don’t get to be professors,” she said. “I never even dreamed that something like this was possible for me. I am where I am today because I had great mentors who believed in me.” She is currently working on a federally funded grant focusing on the prevention of youth violence in the cities of Flint and Detroit. Pizarro sees her work as a way to pay it forward and encourage other inner city kids to reach their goals. “I got to do something that I love because of the people who encouraged me,” she said. “I want to give other inner city kids the same encouragement.” Pizarro will be honored at the White Rose Gala on Thursday, March 5th.
Alicia Pilmore is a Communications Specialist at M3 Group and Editor for the Capital Area Women's Lifestyle Magazine. She loves writing, wine tasting and spoiling her cat, Pishi.