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2014 Napier Fellows

Karen Castro-Ayala - Scripps College

Karen is troubled by food insecurity, high levels of poverty, and low high-school graduation rates in heavily Latino/Hispanic Pasco, WA, an area she often visited with her family as a child. She sees these problems as justice issues and hopes to bring about positive change through her project there. Drawing on experience working in a summer day camp in LA and gardening with high-school students in Pomona and with Crossroads residents in Claremont, she plans to partner with a church that is deeply embedded in the Pasco community to develop a community garden and summer day camp called “Roots of Change” for middle and high school students. The program will include gardening, cooking, food-justice discussions, environmental-justice workshops, art and music projects, along with an academic-enrichment component. Karen envisions this program as the starting point for an after-school tutoring program and a potential organization through which community members can come together to demand change and transform their neighborhoods.


Katherine Garcia - Pomona College

Studying in Cape Town, South Africa, Katherine learned how the high crime rate is rooted in the legacies of apartheid. Tutoring disadvantaged township youth helped her discover the value of student participation in discussions surrounding community concerns and the insight and creativity of these young people. Building on this experience, she proposed to return to Cape Town to work in partnership with the Masiphumelele Public Library. There she would train a group of high-school students to research topics such as drug use, alcohol availability, and lack of access to life outside the township. She would then work together with them to identify root causes of problems and possible strategies for change. She aimed to empower youth by involving them in conversations about the obstacles facing their communities and also in the search for community-based responses.

Marcela Jones - Pitzer College

While working with Huerta del Valle Community Garden in Ontario, CA, a non-profit organization promoting a healthy lifestyle and food justice in the community, Marcela became concerned about the unjust situation of the predominantly low-income and low-resource minority families of color in the area surrounding the Garden. The children are severely disadvantaged educationally. Overcrowded classrooms and insufficient funding for schools leave children whose first language is not English struggling to keep up with the curriculum. Marcela will start a reading initiative with the children of the Garden and the surrounding community. By focusing on reading, she believes the children can be empowered to increase their vocabularies and master the English language so that they will communicate more effectively, have greater confidence, and find encouragement to strive for better futures. She will also involve local youth as a means of training them to carry on the program.


Minji Lee - Pitzer College

Minji's project focused on the role of art in the management of diabetes, seeing art as a medium for emotional healing that medical treatment alone cannot provide. She proposed as her project to share this perspective with people living with diabetes in two different contexts. In Bangalore, India, she would partner with the Jnana Sanjeevini Clinic and Sucre Blue to lead group art therapy sessions for diabetic children and their families, as well as to implement one-on-one art therapy sessions with these children in their rural village homes. In Boston, MA she would partner with the Foundation for Art and Healing to co-facilitate a storytelling intervention program entitled “Diabetes: Breaking the Silence with Creativity.” She believed that as her healing arts project promoted social justice through humanistic, holistic healing processes and encouraged sustainable self-care practices, it would serve as a creative catalyst for individual and community transformation in the context of diabetes advocacy and awareness.


Jenn Livermore - Scripps College

During a semester in Australia focused on Sustainability and Environmental Action, Jenn undertook as her independent project researching, writing, and producing a book to be distributed free for community outreach. It was written from the perspective of a fictional character transitioning to a simple and sustainable lifestyle in Melbourne. The book was intended to be an attractive educational device and is designed to be easily converted into a reusable bag. Jenn now hoped to replicate and expand this project in San Francisco. She had interned in San Francisco with The Presidio Trust, The Nature Conservancy, and the Greenbelt Alliance. With established local contacts with these environmental organizations, and with more time and more resources than she had in Australia, Jenn planned to prepare a new book on simple and sustainable living in San Francisco, work with local groups to distribute it, and try to maximize its educational impact. A blog would be created to engage local people in conversation, to trace and evaluate the reach of the book, and to get feedback.


Romarilyn Ralston - Pitzer College

Volunteering to help take third graders to the zoo introduced Romarilyn to the Miles Davis Kindergarten Center in the East Saint Louis Public School system, located in a seriously disadvantaged neighborhood. Reflecting on what she had learned about the relation of poverty and poor education to mass incarceration through her academic study and through volunteer work with juvenile delinquents and residents of Crossroads, she determined to focus her work on making children's first educational experience a positive one. In partnership with teachers at Miles Davis Kindergarten Center, she shaped plans for “Good Start” to empower the community to improve educational achievement. The “Good Start” program would introduce parents to ways to encourage and cultivate academic success for their children, such as possibly GED classes for parents, a financial savings plan for field trips and school supplies, healthy eating plans, and basic parenting skills, if needed. Romarilyn proposed to enlist community members such as teachers, law enforcement officers, parents, church members, businessmen and women to help provide and support these services.

Bianca Shiu & Sharon Jan - Pomona College

Sharon and Bianca have had the opportunity to work with several educational nonprofits where they saw a need for improvement in student writing. Bianca volunteered with Pomona Hope and Uncommon Good and interned with 826LA and Breakthrough Collaborative to develop her teaching and leadership skills. Sharon worked with Pomona Hope Kids as an Outreach Coordinator and tutor and interned with the Los Angeles Urban Project and Adventures Ahead in South LA as a volunteer teacher. Both share excitement about educational equity and believe in the importance of writing in college and career readiness, which led them to create the Weekly Writing Workshop (3W) at Pomona College. The mission of 3W is to empower underprivileged public school students by strengthening their technical writing skills and creative expression through individualized feedback and engaging creative writing lessons. College mentors play a large role in the 3W program, working with the same 2-3 students through the entire semester. 3W is partnering locally with Uncommon Good and CLASP and is also expanding to four more college campuses this year. The Napier project to be carried out by Bianca and Sharon will expand the program to other campuses by providing motivated college students with writing curriculum and guidance in setting up their own sustainable 3W chapters. In addition, they will plan two national training conferences where there will be practice-teaching with feedback, training for 3W mentor management, and vision setting to create a cohesive program that will benefit local communities across the United States.


Christian Stevens - Harvey Mudd College

Christian has been working on HIV gene therapy research in the lab for nearly two years but has also become engaged as a volunteer in the community concerned with the social impact of HIV. He is aware of the many social problems that prevent patients from fully accessing the available medical treatment. He proposed to go to Lilongwe, Malawi for nine months to work with Partners in Hope. Malawi is a poor African nation with a very high incidence of HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria, all infections which require strict levels of adherence to medication programs if treatment is to be successful. He proposed to spend time with physicians and other health-care professionals as well as their patients and other members of the community in order to gain a better understanding of the factors that affect medication adherence. He hoped to create an organization that includes both citizens and health-care professionals that focuses on improving health-care outcomes for patients in Lilongwe by improving medication adherence.


Margaret Thompson - Harvey Mudd College

Margaret's project addressed issues surrounding transnational relationships where immigrants in the United States maintain romantic relationships with partners living in their sending countries. Persons in these relationships face a host of barriers that have the potential to undermine the stability of the relationship and the co-parenting dynamics of couples with children. She believes that where immigrants make up a large fraction of our local community, that community has a responsibility to care about how community structures, such as immigration laws, are affecting the lives of its people. Margaret has been part of a research team studying these transnational relationships from a relationship psychology perspective. She proposed to supplement that research by traveling to Guadalajara, Mexico for one semester to converse with individuals whose partners have migrated to the U.S. in order to understand their experience. In the second semester she would work with the research team at HMC to integrate the data collected and possibly prepare a paper for publication.


Wendalyn Tran - Claremont McKenna College

Wendalyn partnered with a Vietnamese program, Be Change Agents, that works in three regions of the country, gathering 30 university students at a time to teach them leadership skills over seven days. Many students want to have a positive impact in their community, but they feel that the existing leadership workshops are more theoretical than practical and not effective. Wendalyn expanded and improved these leadership programs by incorporating: 1) a greater focus on skills application, using interactive activities and 2) a curriculum by which students can teach this material to other students. Both should be customized to meet the students' needs by drawing on the knowledge and opinions of both students and experienced practitioners in social change. She proposed to spend ten months in Vietnam, consulting with student alumni of the Be Change Agents program, developing curricula, teaching, implementing a project with the students, surveying feedback from participants, and assisting the students who would then become the instructors as they would teach a new group of students.


Mitsuko Alexandra Yabe - Pomona College

Mitsuko has been doing genomic research on snow leopards, an endangered species, to discover how climate change would affect their adaptation to high-altitude environments in the Himalayas. She became aware of the gap in knowledge and communication between American lab research groups and the local communities that are directly affected by snow leopard conservation in Ladakh, on the Himalayan border of India. She placed the scientific issues in the larger context of social ecology. Mitsuko planned to go to Ladakh to work with the Main Education Coordinator of the Snow Leopard Conservancy India Trust, Tsering Angmo, to develop and include a Climate Change section in their Environmental Education Program. She would hold training workshops for educators and teach students in 14 schools. Furthermore she would like to help make a Himalayan home-stay program available to environmental-studies and veterinary students from the US by creating an informational pamphlet available via web, so they can go and work with SLC-IT. The home-stay program would facilitate partnerships and cultural exchanges and also benefit the local communities economically.

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