Ben Alden

Ben Alden

The Ben Alden Memorial Awards for Social Justice

Two annual awards honor the legacy of Ben Alden’s life and his commitment to advocating for permanent social change.

$3,000 YOUNG ADULT AWARD for ages 18-25 $300 YOUTH AWARD for ages 13-17

“Most people don’t know where whales go in the winter. I think that I do.”

Ben Alden died tragically at the age of 27 in March of 2008. Ben had deep empathy for all who suffered and was a tireless volunteer for various charities. Ben’s great love and gift to us all was his devotion to Catholic social teaching and its call for long-term social justice. He truly understood the importance of changing the system. When the Office of Social Justice (OSJ) started the Housing Action Team (HAT), Ben was one of the founding members.

Ben was a Ph.D. candidate in Cartography and Geographic Information Systems (GIS). He quickly realized that maps and GIS could be used to further social justice causes. He observed that by incorporating the income demographics for each neighborhood, it could be demonstrated that the poorest people were forced to live in the most environmentally hazardous areas. This led him to the realization that if he could only show people social problems graphically, they too would be motivated to work for change.

Ben was very creative. He particularly loved language, and filled his notebooks with hundreds of poems over the years.

Social justice has rich Catholic roots and immense global societal potential and impact. Rooted in the teachings of St. Thomas Aquinas, social justice is aimed at activities that create lasting social solutions for a just society based upon the principles of equality, human dignity and solidarity. Today, key areas of work include education, immigration, affordable housing, hunger, homelessness, access to health care, racial justice, human trafficking, and the income gap, among many others.

$3,000 YOUNG ADULT AWARD for ages 18-25 $300 YOUTH AWARD for ages 13-17

Award Purpose:

To encourage youth and young adults to work with passion on social justice efforts. These awards allow young people to apply Catholic social teaching to advance a social justice issue important to them with innovative insight, projects, programs, approaches and initiatives working toward lasting social change.

Who is Eligible:

Applicants with a connection to a Catholic church or Catholic school as a parishioner, or a relative of a parishioner, or a former or current student.

How to Apply:

Download and fill out the following application forms:

Application Deadline:

May 1

Why Do This:

Show your passion and create real social change. Get involved beyond service and volunteer giving opportunities, which are also critical, to make a more lasting mark on society. Show your leadership – be creative and get involved. Expand your experience and bolster your resume – differentiate yourself from others for college admissions or college graduation and landing that first job. Receive a cash award!

What We Are Looking For:

Creativity, innovation and meaningful insights! The Youth Award entails a creative communication – an essay, a video, art piece, poem, website, reading or performance – whatever is desired to share the student’s recent insights or learnings in social justice. This awardee receives $300 to use as they see fit.
The Young Adult Award is more involved and focuses on the awardee creating and executing an initiative aimed at working toward lasting social change. With the funding support, the recipient typically implements the idea to drive permanent social change. The $3,000 is used to both better the awardee—expanding his/her experience— as well as the area of social justice.

Award Sponsors:

Funded by the Ben Alden family, the awards are managed by the CTK Social Justice Team, which leads a range of outreach and educational forums to create a deeper understanding of social justice issues among our parishioners and community to drive initiatives for lasting social change. Social justice can be a challenging-yet-fulfilling concept, especially to young people just getting started. We are a resource to applicants – we welcome you to call upon us with an initial idea to get feedback. Please contact Mary Jane Mitchell at for assistance.

Past Recipients:

2015 Young Adult Award
Brianna Pezon

Brianna is graduating from the University of Wisconsin River Falls and will start the University of Minnesota Masters of Social Work program. She is continuing her pursuit for social change through an advanced program with a focus on Clinical Mental Health. Her client advocacy work requires needed equitable social services, especially for the oppressed and vulnerable. Brianna’s goal as a social worker is to create awareness about the real issues, be a voice for others to turn self determination into strength and influence, and join together for society to move toward social change.

2015 Youth Award
Jacob Biscan

Jacob, a student at Southview Middle School, wrote an essay about how important it is, and relatively easy, to give back to the community. Discovering that only 26% of teenagers in the U.S. volunteer, he developed an incentive plan that schools could implement each week to get more young people involved. Social justice can be accomplished through small, easy individual acts of kindness and giving back.

Gerard Ondrey
Eleanor Colbert
Finn Larson
Eleanor Hedlund

Madeline Mitchell
Katie Zeuli

Amos Budde
Grace Hellstrom

Kathryn Caskey

Allison Berger
David Upjohn

Thomas Fricton