Two Danvers High graduates and a Salem resident are among the “29 Who Shine,” 29 students with outstanding academic careers who represent one of the state’s 29 community colleges, state universities and University of Massachusetts campuses.
“We’re proud to salute a group of students who individually and collectively represent the very best that Massachusetts public campuses produce each year,” said Charles Desmond, state Board of Higher Education chairman and Danvers resident in his introductory remarks, supplied by the board.
This is the third year for the “29 Who Shine” awards.
Anthony Pira, Salem State University
Pira is a professional photographer who has photographed political campaigns, architecture, high-end homes, ad campaigns and brides on their wedding day. His work celebrated life, he said, but he felt something was missing when he looked back at his body of work.
“I needed to really focus on what I was giving back to my community,” said Pira, who hails from Seattle and who has lived in Salem for five years.
Pira became interested in social work and applied to the program at Salem State University, one of the most competitive programs in the state, according to Salem State University spokesperson Karen Cady — 45 percent of applicants were accepted for the upcoming fall semester, she said. Pira graduates May 16, and will perform his second internship this summer.
Pira is in the process of starting a nonprofit called the Social Works Foundation, an organization that would allow artists, or others who work independently to find a way to use their talents to give back to the community.
He learned a lot, he said, during an internship with the National Association of Social Workers, which exposed him to the workings at the Statehouse as he lobbied for different bills. He also learned a lot when he mounted a large, outdoor photo exhibit called “Invisible Faces,” which displayed large photographs of homeless young people on a building in Cambridge who attend the Youth on Fire drop-in center on Massachusetts Avenue. The exhibit brought to light the plight of homeless young people, who are invisible hanging out in Harvard Square, but whose images on a building sparked awareness.