Rolanda L. Ward, director of Niagara University’s Rose Bente Lee Ostapenko Center for Race, Equity & Mission and associate professor of social work, was honored as a Community Hero by the National Federation for Just Communities of Western New York at its 2021 NFJC Re-Envisioned Community Heroes Awards on Friday.
Ward was among 11 individuals, corporations, and institutions in Western New York recognized for the impact they have made on the community during these challenging times, as well as how their contributions reflect the organization’s mission of building bridges. The event can be viewed through the NFJC WNY Facebook page and YouTube Channel.
Ward was recognized for her work in creating and leading the Niagara Falls Health Equity Task Force, which represents stakeholders from every sector of the community. Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, Ward has worked with representatives from health care and hospitals; faith communities; schools; community agencies; and city, state, and federal government to ensure that access to testing, tracing, food, shelter and housing, medicine, and other supplies are available to all members of the community, especially the underserved, and she has given special emphasis to education around the COVID-19 vaccine. Her work has promoted social justice and the well-being of all members of the Niagara Falls community and left an indelible mark during this challenging time.
Ward has been an associate professor at Niagara University since 2015, and was appointed to lead the Ostapenko Center in August 2017. She also served on the Social Justice Commission established by Niagara Falls Mayor Robert Restaino, co-chairing a subcommittee that addresses issues surrounding jobs and employment.
Ward earned her doctorate in social work and sociology from Boston University, and has been the lead investigator or research associate on a number of studies focusing on society’s most vulnerable, underserved, and proven-risk populations. These populations include BIPOC high school students, foster care youths, recent parolees, child welfare workers, and healthcare providers for those with intellectual and developmental disabilities.