Women make a strong showing in the Napier Awards

During the 2014-2015 academic year, the Pilgrim Place community will offer two $12,000 Napier Awards for Creative Leadership to graduating seniors at the five Claremont Colleges. 

The awards were established as a memorial to Davie and Joy Napier, longtime residents of Pilgrim Place, who in earlier years had remarkable careers as prophetic advocates for a just, peaceful and sustainable world.

The $12,000 awards will be given to two graduating seniors who demonstrate outstanding leadership promise in the areas of social justice, peace and environmental sustainability. Each of the five undergraduate Claremont Colleges nominated up to three students for the awards. All students nominated by the schools will be named Napier Fellows and will have the opportunity for a one-year mentoring relationship with Pilgrim Place residents creating a significant vocational affinity with the nominees.

Following their nominations, the students met on several occasions with Pilgrim Place mentors and, on February 21, all nominees will be joined by others from the Colleges, as well as by Pilgrim Place and community members, for a reception and a festive banquet at which the two Napier awardees will be announced.

To reserve a spot at the dinner—to be held Saturday, February 21 at 6 p.m. at Decker Hall in Pilgrim Place—email Viki Battaglia at vbattaglia@pilgrim place.org or visit pilgrimplace.org.

There are 14 nominated projects this year, led by a total of 16 students. Of those 16 Napier Fellows for 2015, an impressive 13 are women. We wish all of the students well on their endeavors.


Zoe Brown: Pitzer College

Ms. Brown’s proposed project is to implement writing and storytelling workshops in prisons and transitional homes for women in Seattle, creating a space that fosters the women’s self-empowering, critical thinking and mechanisms for creative expression and facilitating successful reintegration into society. She will develop these workshops in partnership with the Women’s Wellness and Integrative Social Health program in Seattle. At Pitzer, Ms. Brown created a major in “public health: the social determinants of health,” especially incorporating courses with a community-engagement component. She has worked with writing and wellness programs in a juvenile detention center and two prisons and with Crossroads in Claremont.


Priyva Donti:?Harvey Mudd College

Ms. Donti proposes to spend one year designing and implementing an after-school educational program that teaches middle schoolers about technology through hands-on problems in environmental sustainability. This project, with students from Claremont and Pomona, will help increase engagement in STEM and environmental sustainability and also encourage cross-cultural interactions between students in the two cities. The plan is to produce curricular and teaching materials that can be used in other settings, as well as to run the program during her Napier year.


Hong Deng Gao: Pomona College

Ms. Deng Gao has developed a project called Health Bridges, envisioning a world in which immigrants—regardless of their linguistic skills, income level or legal status—face no barriers to timely health services. The pilot project would be with Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center, which has a large low-income immigrant patient population and limited translation capacity. Ms. Deng Gao proposes to give extensive training to bilingual volunteers from the Claremont Colleges to assist non-English speaking patients to obtain health resources for which they are eligible. Ms. Deng Gao herself speaks several dialects including Chinese, Spanish and Japanese, as well as English.


Claire Hirschberg:?Scripps College

Last summer, Ms. Hirschberg worked as an intern with Californians United for a Responsible Budget (CURB), a statewide coalition fighting mass incarceration. She focused especially on opposing the increase in plans for “gender responsive” prisons and jails. At Scripps, she is organizing a program to visit immigrants in confinement, and is writing her honors thesis on “Carceral Humanism and Ethics of Care in Gender Responsive Incarceration.” For her Napier project, she proposes to return to work with CURB to fight gender responsive jail expansions across the state.


Molly Luftus: Claremont McKenna

Ms. Luftus’s project relates to environmental sustainability and positive social mobility. While studying abroad in Dakar, Senegal last summer, she noticed an excess of fruit that vendors were not selling. Her goal is to educate a community to create a solar dehydrator composed of recycled materials in order to preserve fruit that would otherwise be wasted. Once the fruit is dehydrated, the community can learn how to package and sell the salvaged fruit, providing a business to be run predominately by women. Ms. Luftus will partner with two organizations in Africa: Tostan and SenEco. She hopes to locate her project in the two villages she previously visited.


Yi Luo:?Claremont McKenna

Ms. Luo, a documentary filmmaker, believes that in the US and China, environmental policymaking should be enacted through a humanitarian lens.  For her Napier project, Ms. Luo proposes to make documentaries in China and submit them to film festivals in the US and China to raise public awareness about how economics and scientific data have dominated policymaking. One will be the story of the few remaining nomadic Mongolians in Inner Mongolia of China; a second film will focus on a rural peasant woman who has helped her community prosper while maintaining a traditional lifestyle; and a third will explore development in Shenzhen, where she grew up.


Joyce Nimocks: Pomona College

An environmental analysis major, Ms. Nimocks proposes to create a series of alternative, sustainable cosmetic workshops for African American women on the south side of Chicago. She is experienced in making cosmetics from natural ingredients, avoiding the toxic, potentially carcinogenic cosmetics. Ms. Nimocks will use Napier funds to secure local spaces to promote dialogue among women in low-income communities about potential dangers in commercial cosmetics and the use of non-toxic ingredients. Ms. Nimocks hopes to evoke conversation about self-love, self-care and education as tools for empowerment and social justice.


Sarah Han: Scripps College

Ms. Han, a human biology major with an emphasis on public health, calls Humboldt County home. Humboldt County is a medically-underserved, rural area with high incidence of poor health and the highest death rates in California. She proposes to work with Open Door Community Health Centers, a safety-net health provider for the North Coast of California, to encourage health-care reform towards holistic, patient-centered health care, focusing on increasing community access to the social determinants of health. Open Door’s program called RX for Wellness encourages health-care providers to prescribe treatment plans, such as visiting the community garden on foot and harvesting produce, when patients suffer from inactivity and poor nutrition. RX for Wellness has been implemented at one of Open Door’s sites. Ms. Han will work to deploy this program at the other sites.


Mari Pettibone:?Pitzer College

Already an experienced health educator for underserved communities, Ms. Pettibone proposes to expand the Wellness Center for the Costanoan Rumsen Ohlone Tribe members living in Pomona. In her role as community health liaison for Claremont Colleges and Western Medical School, it is her job to assist the director of the Native American Pipeline to College and members of the tribe in reviving the Wellness Center, which has languished from lack of personnel. She is already teaching classes on nutrition, wellness, diabetes and exercise. After graduation, Ms. Pettibone hopes to help the Wellness Center to serve the great needs of the tribal members. She has worked in health clinics in Mexico, Costa Rica and San Francisco.


 Jennifer Renick:?Pitzer College

A major in community mental health with an emphasis among schools and youth, Ms. Renick proposes to organize a mental health intervention program in the Pomona area, based at public middle and high schools, especially Garey High School. Its main components would be a summer education series focused around family dinners, the creation of mental health libraries and fostering sustained collaboration between local mental health agencies and public school workers. She particularly hopes to provide culturally-sensitive mental health education in the Latino community.


Laurel Schwartz and Meghan Gallagher:?Scripps College

Ms. Schwartz and Ms. Gallagher intend to create a media institute for middle school girls. For a month during summer, girls will learn about critical media theory while producing short films. The goal of the institute is to put creative control into the hands of young women to give them the tools for self-representation. Through the combination of classes, workshops and production, the girls will create a short film in groups of three. The summer workshop will give teenage girls the opportunity to develop public-speaking skills, in addition to helping them gain budgeting and teamwork experience. The Napier Fellows will partner with Independent Filmmaker Project MN in St. Paul, Minnesota and the Scripps College Academy in Claremont.


Emma Zang-Schwartz: Harvey Mudd College

Ms. Zang-Schwartz, a global health major, proposes a project to expand a food-related microbusiness in Jinotega, Nicaragua. Jinotega is a mountainous region, isolated from resources, with serious malnutrition of children. Two non-profit groups, Esperanca, headquartered in Phoenix, and Association of Volunteers for Community Development (AVODEC), a local partner in Nicaragua, have begun a program in Jinotega to provide families with five chickens and a rooster, along with information on how to care for them. Ms. Zang-Schwartz has worked in the Phoenix office of Esperanca, and now she would like to work with Nicaragua to expand this program. She will be responsible for initiating the next step, where families will pass along chickens to other families and provide information on how to care for them.


Jacob Shimkus:?Claremont McKenna

Mr. Shimkus intends to help lead a team of students at the College of the Marshall Islands in tailoring climate adaptation curriculum to local youth (ages 10-14) and supporting them in refining and presenting an environmental education program throughout the Marshall Islands. As a series of small, low-lying islands, the Marshall Islands are on the front lines of climate change. Drawing on Mr. Shimkus’s work with Living Islands, the US-Marshallese nonprofit development organization, this project aims to create a direct link between Marshallese youth and older Marshallese students, encouraging them to engage one another in these important issues and to become community leaders in sustainability and climate adaptation.


Matt O’Connor and Don Swan: Pomona College

Mr. O’Connor and Mr. Swan propose creating a mentorship program between student-athlete mentors from Pomona and Pitzer Colleges and high school athlete leaders from the Pomona Unified School District (PUSD). It would be called 3-P 3-D: 3-P for Pomona College, Pitzer College and PUSD; 3-D for core values of desire, discipline, and dedication.

Both men have extensive experience tutoring PUSD students and believe that young athletes can be important role models within their communities. They strive to help kids learn that academic achievement is just as “cool” as success on the field. These high school students can then transform the sports culture of the high school.

The model proposed would bring together five athlete leaders at each PUSD high school with two college athletes bi-weekly, with the entire group gathering monthly. Academic achievement would be regularly monitored and higher education strongly encouraged.



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