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Six Sophomores Awarded Lang Opportunity Scholarships

Clockwise from top left: Olivia Han ’25, Katherine Kihiczak ’25, Feven Shonga ’25, Lina Verghese ’25, Helena Werneck ’25, and Aqua Withers Carello ’25.

As the newest recipients of the Eugene M. Lang Opportunity Scholarship (LOS), six Swarthmore sophomores will strive with partners toward systems change with an array of projects.
A signature program of the Lang Center for Civic and Social Responsibility, the LOS program supports the innovative efforts of students working on issues of social concern in deep consultation with community members.

“We’re very excited about the Lang Scholars in our LOS Class of 2025, who aim to systemize and sustain community-supported projects both locally and abroad,” says Ben Berger, executive director of the Lang Center and associate professor of political science. “From a multicultural community kitchen in nearby Upper Darby and a youth voting project in neighboring Montgomery County, to caregiver support programming in Brazil, our students are practicing engaged scholarship while learning from and with community partners.”

“The Lang Scholar Class of 2025 is an inspiring cohort who will focus their efforts on communities and topics with which they are deeply committed,” adds Jennifer Magee, director of program development, implementation & assessment at the Lang Center, who advises the scholars. “They will map the systems that hold challenges in place and work with community partners to develop meaningful solutions.”

The members of the Lang Scholar Class of 2025 are:

Olivia Han ’25 (Ocala, Fla.)

Olivia Han"Sexual violence is extremely prevalent on college campuses, but the resources provided to help survivors are often insufficient. Project Olive Wreath intends to change this by establishing an art therapy program for student survivors of sexual assault to release and process their emotions. This will be achieved through professionally moderated art therapy workshops, online newsletters, and an art exhibition displaying survivor-made works. In doing this, I hope to advocate for student survivors and prioritize their mental health and well-being in the aftermath of a traumatic experience. 

“Being a Lang Scholar means collaborating with creative, hard-working individuals who are using their resources to build something greater than themselves. Through my project, I hope to see a change in the conversations we have surrounding sexual assault to ensure the comfort and wellness of survivors.”

Katherine Kihiczak ’25 (Los Angeles, Calif.)

Katherine Kihiczak ’25“Unaddressed language barriers create inequity in a legal system that is already complicated to navigate. With this project, I aim to create sustainable systems for court interpretation, particularly for civil cases in Los Angeles, to support people unfamiliar with English who are faced with judiciary processes. I also hope to establish a framework for language and law-focused college and graduate students to do pro bono court interpretation. I also intend to create systems for support and translation resources in pre-trial proceedings.

“Being a Lang Scholar means learning, growing, and working towards positive change with a community of incredible peers and mentors, while also having the chance to synthesize different areas of interest and passion. I hope to put into effect more equitable interpretation access for non-English speakers in Los Angeles, and from there build a scalable framework for similarly linguistically diverse cities.”

Feven Shonga ’25 (Silver Spring, Md.)

Feven Shonga ’25“My project aims to support literacy development and early intervention for young Ethiopians with Autism Spectrum Disorder in Silver Spring, Maryland, a city with a large population of Ethiopians. I want to broaden the view of literacy by working with programs for autistic people to acknowledge and encourage different forms of literacies in their work, whether it's writing, painting, making music, or more. I also want to focus on the literacy of parents and guardians by assisting them in navigating the internet and other resources to find the best support for their children with autism.

“Being a Lang Scholar means that I have the opportunity to brainstorm ways to help my community in a responsible and beneficial way while working with people who have experience in community service projects, which will allow me to learn from their knowledge and expertise. Through the project, I hope to make a meaningful difference in my community while learning from and collaborating with others who share similar goals.”

Lina Verghese ’25 (Upper Darby, Pa.)

Lina Verghese ’25“I grew up in the heart of 69th Street in a township that is recognized as 'The World in One Place.' There, diversity has never been a problem. However, nutrition issues, adjusting to a new city, and feeling part of the community are challenges in Upper Darby. As a Lang Scholar, I hope to create a community kitchen as a space where community members can come together to create cultural dishes and to support each other. 

“Becoming a Lang Scholar is a great way for me to learn about and intervene in issues in my community, while working with a great group of Lang Scholars who are likewise committed to systemic change. Through this project, I hope to connect Swarthmore College to Upper Darby and help tackle nutritional inequality through sustainable means.”

Helena Werneck ’25 (São Paulo, Brazil)

Helena Werneck ’25“For the last five years, I have worked with communities in the Serra da Capivara, a rural and very impoverished region in Northeast Brazil, especially with children. With my Lang Project, I intend to continue supporting these communities by focusing on a new group: caregivers. In collaboration with local leaders, I want to develop a caregiver support program, with group sessions facilitated by a social worker. The goals are to bring awareness of positive caregiving habits, develop stronger bonds between schools and parents, and help them with career development.

“The Lang Opportunity Scholarship Program is a unique opportunity to bring Swarthmore to my country, Brazil, and to bring Brazil to Swarthmore, while generating real social change. I hope to cause a long-term transformation in the region I'll be working at, and bring more awareness to the importance and power of supporting caregivers.”

Aqua Withers Carello ’25 (Lawrenceville, N.J.)

Aqua Withers Carello ’25“In the United States, voter disenfranchisement resulting from existing voter policy threatens and undermines the U.S. democratic system. A representative democracy requires active and equal participation in elections across demographic lines; voter turnout rates across the United States reflect a lack of both. In the 2020 presidential election, only 51% of voters aged 18-24 cast a ballot. Working with Philadelphia-based youth and minority voter enfranchisement organization PA Youth Vote, I will expand a student-led grassroots organizing model to counties across the critical swing state of Pennsylvania. I seek to register and empower high school and college-age voters, especially within swing counties.

“Being a Lang Scholar means that I will receive the necessary resources, support, and guidance to make this critical project as effective, impactful and sustainable as possible. Through this project, I hope to empower youth across Pennsylvania to take action through their vote on the range of critical issues we are faced with today, and in turn raise youth voter turnout rates for both local and national elections throughout the state.”

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