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Vanderhaar Symposium Recognizes Aylen Mercado with Student Peace Award

Zane Turner (’20) also to be recognized as award finalist

The Gerard A. Vanderhaar Symposium at Christian Brothers University (CBU) is pleased to announce the recipient of its annual Gerard A. Vanderhaar Student Peace Award. This award honors the Mid-South area college student who best exemplifies the spirit and practice of active nonviolence consistent with Dr. Vanderhaar’s life and work and has been involved in peace and justice work in our community. This year’s honoree is Aylen Candela Mercado, a senior at Rhodes College.

Aylen Mercado is a Clarence Day Scholar with a double-major in Urban Studies and Latin American and Latinx Studies. At Rhodes, she leads initiatives centering diversity and inclusion by organizing peaceful demonstrations and facilitating spaces for dialogue to strengthen community understanding of underrepresented experiences. She draws from her background as a grassroots community organizer to engage the college community in conversations which address systemic inequity at the local and global level. In 2016, in response to heightened attacks on marginalized communities, Mercado collaborated with students across Memphis to create the Fed Up Student Union, a collegiate group founded by women of color and queer women. She also volunteers and organizes with community members at Desayuno con Libros, one of two free breakfast and literacy programs in the city, to promote community empowerment through art and literacy. She regularly writes for “The Rant,” a column in The Memphis Flyer, and speaks on social and economic justice — including an address she delivered at the MLK50 commemoration at the National Civil Rights Museum in 2018.

Mercado will be presented with the Student Peace Award at a Vanderhaar Symposium reception to be held in the Montesi Executive Center at CBU on April 11 at 5:30 p.m.

Also being recognized at the reception is Student Peace Award finalist Zane Strickland Turner. Turner was homeschooled through high school and is now a junior at CBU, majoring in Business Administration with concentrations in Finance and Management. He has been deeply connected with the Unknown Child project for over a decade, and during his service with this organization, over $25,000 has been raised to promote awareness and education regarding Jewish lives lost in the Holocaust. Turner is committed to educating the next generation to stand for social justice and never allow something so heinous as the Holocaust to happen again. Additionally, he works as a peer counselor at CBU where he encourages students not only to grow academically, but also in their awareness of the needs of those around them.

 The Vanderhaar Symposium was created in 2005 to honor Dr. Gerard A. Vanderhaar’s lifetime spent promoting peace and active nonviolence. A list of past Student Peace Award laureates is available at the Symposium’s website at

Posted by Cory Dugan at 3:18 PM