Six Sophomores Named Lang Opportunity Scholars

Stacey Kutish

Six Sophomores Named
Lang Opportunity Scholars

by Stacey Kutish
12/23/08

Six sophomores are the newest recipients of the Eugene M. Lang Opportunity Scholarship, which provides a guaranteed summer internship, educational enhancement funds, and the opportunity to apply for up to $10,000 to create a project that addresses a social problem. Scholars who successfully complete a project are also eligible for up to $5,000 each year for graduate studies, up to two years.

"Swarthmore students constitute an extraordinary pool from which to draw Lang Opportunity Scholars," says Joy Charlton, executive director of the Lang Center for Civic and Social Responsibility. "The selection committee was thoroughly impressed by the creativity, energy, and dedication of all those who applied and congratulates those students who will move forward with the program."

Ecem ErsekerEcem Erseker of Istanbul, Turkey, plans to establish a microfinance project in her home country with the support of her Lang Opportunity Scholarship. She aims to empower Anatolian migrant women living in squatter settlements in Istanbul by providing them with seed money that will enable the women to pursue self-employment opportunities. Her project, titled Micro Anatolia, will provide both economic and socio-psychological support for the participants.

Priya JohnsonThe support of the Lang Opportunity Scholarship will enable Priya Johnson of Atlanta, Ga., to develop a program in Mumbai, India, that will work with local nongovernmental organizations to promote sexual health education and awareness among sex workers. The program, to be named Kahaniyo ki Rani, which translates to Queen of Stories, will reflect the history of courtesanship in India by incorporating performance arts into its educational mission. Participants will first be taught basic sexual health and prevention and then will explore traditional art forms including dance, theater, and visual arts as a means of expressing themselves. The goal will then be to have the participants share the lessons they have learned about sexual health with other sex workers in new and creative ways.

Katherine LamKatherine Lam of Monterey Park, Calif., is interested in politically empowering teens in the Los Angeles area. Her project, Angeleno Youth Advocates, will host educational sessions and a conference about politics for teens and develop and maintain a Web site that will track legislation of interest to youth. The goal of Angeleno Youth Advocates is to develop a relationship between teens and their elected officials and to inspire a lifelong interest in the political process among the participants.

Chenge MahomvaAshia TroianoChengetai Mahomva of Durban, South Africa, and Ashia Troiano of New York, N.Y., will work together to execute a joint Lang Opportunity Scholar project. Not new to working in partnership, Mahomva and Troiano are co-founders of Project Shingayi, a Swarthmore College-based group that has worked to serve orphans at the Matthew Rusike Children's Home in Epworth, Zimbabwe. To date, Project Shingayi has raised funds to construct 10 eco-sanitary latrines at the home. With their Lang Opportunity Scholar grant, the pair plans to establish an environmentally and socially sustainable school - attached to the orphanage - which offers a holistic curriculum that goes beyond arithmetic and literacy by including topics such as nonviolent social change as well as health and nutritional education.

Sneha ShresthaWhile working with a nongovernmental organization to create a documentary about the impacts of armed conflict and the particular stigma born by widows in Nepal, Sneha Shrestha of Kathmandu, Nepal,  witnessed the discrimination and challenges faced by these women. She also saw how the daughters of the widows had to deal with trauma, loss, and abuse. Shrestha plans to develop a ten-day long program, Heal, Learn, and Transform,  focused on psychological healing for displaced teenaged girls (aged 13-18). The program will emphasize confidence and leadership building through story telling, arts exploration, and life skills building. Additionally, a documentary assessing the impact of the program on the participants will be produced in order to help others replicate the program.