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Claremont Courier - A Local Nonprofit Newsroom

Napier Award winners set out to make world a better place

During an evening at Pilgrim Place described by several of the more than 250 attending as “energizing,” 9 students from the Claremont Colleges were honored and 2 were selected to receive this year’s prestigious $10,000 Napier Awards for creative leadership.

Rachel Conrad and Caitlin Watkins, seniors at Pitzer College, were the top honorees with projects dealing with the basics of water and food, a fitting fulfillment of Davie Napier who had instructed that people should “Work, in whatever work you do, to stop the weeping…to heal the wounds of the human family.”

The late Mr. Napier, known throughout the country as an Old Testament scholar and activist, and his wife, Joy, were residents at Pilgrim Place for the last 2 decades of their remarkable lives, both known for their abiding interest and mentoring of students wherever they were.

Anne Napier Caffery, president of the Memorial Foundation in Yakima, Washington, and daughter of the Napiers, was the keynote speaker at the event, energizing in her own right with her message to the honorees that they will “bring the Napier Initiative to new heights.”

“Abstract is fine,” Ms. Napier Caffery declared. “Be impatient, question authority, challenge power, practice compassion, eradicate repression and more than anything—serve! Light up every room you enter with the fire in your heart.”

The recipient of the 2013 Napier Medal for her own work with the Yakima Valley Memorial Hospital Charitable Foundation in expansion of health services to a diverse, underserved largely Hispanic population in the area, creation of a Children’s Village and most recently establishment of the Cottage in the Meadow Hospice Care Center, Ms. Napier Caffery described Pilgrim Place as her own “spiritual spa” and as the “first place that my parents stayed at all still.”

Rachel Conrad of Pitzer College, who graduated from high school in Sandy Springs, Maryland, has already spent a year working with farmers in the Dulcepamba watershed in Ecuador, and will return there as her Napier project to continue working to develop a sustainable water-management plan.

Caitlin Watkins, also at Pitzer, and a graduate of St. Stephen’s High School in Austin, Texas, will continue her work with Crossroads, the Claremont residential program for women released from prison, concentrating on an enterprise called “Fallen Fruit from Rising Women” that emphasizes gardening, culinary skills, along with selling quality food products from donated produce, developing job-related skills and providing employment to ease transition to independent living.

The interests and projects of the nominees, who each received a $250 stipend and a year of a mentoring relationship with a Pilgrim Place resident in the area of their interests, run a gamut of social programs.

Lucas Wrench of Pomona College, who attended high school in Bellevue, Washington, has been pursuing his love of making things and riding bikes to organizing programs encouraging bicycling on and off campus and to building and repairing bikes for distribution to workers at day-laborer centers.

Erika Parks of Pomona College, a graduate of Phillips Exeter High School in New Hampshire, is building data to develop programming and a support network for women who complete the residential program at Crossroads to help them to continue to grow.

Erikan Obotetukudo of Claremont McKenna College is working on the inadequacy of health care for men in different cultural contexts. She has done research in the area in both Brazil and South Africa and hopes to help with local health-care providers in group workshops and community outreach.

Tiffany Yi-Mei Liu of Harvey Mudd College and a graduate of San Marino High School, is an engineering major working on renewable energy and introducing the social impact that technical work has on society to other Harvey Mudd students.

Ivette Guadarrama of Pomona College, graduated from Chicago Military Academy, and is working with young adolescent women in low-income minority communities toward empowerment through artistic expression and community building.

Jared Calvert of Pitzer College, who graduated from high school in Oak Park, Illinois, and has already graduated from Pitzer, is pursuing his long-held interest in increasing youth and minority populations in the political process. He is working with Inland Congregations United for Change.

LaThelma Armstrong of Scripps College, a graduate of Culver Academy in Culver, Indiana, has mentored girls in difficult contexts in the US and in Ghana. She is continuing summer workshops for eighth and ninth grade African American girls to foster positive self-images through reading, writing, dialogue, community involvement and mentoring.

—Pat Yarborough

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