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Participant Profiles

Aleina Dume (she/her) is a sophomore in the class of 2023 from Queens, New York City. She intends to major in Sociology and Anthropology, with a focus on higher education. One of her favorite experiences while in college happened during her first year at Swarthmore, when she flew for the first time to California to observe an alumni working on educational policy. As the first in her family to attend college, Aleina is committed to building accessible communities and sharing inclusive opportunities so that other students like her can thrive as they pursue their goals. 

Aleina’s project, FLI to Graduation, is a six-week college-transition summer program for incoming first-generation and low-income (FLI) students. She is guided by the mission that every student who wants to attend college can enroll and earn a degree. Though many FLI students receive support when they apply to college, they have lower odds of staying in and completing a degree on time. In fact, in the United States, 1 in 4 FLI students drop out after their first year and in six years, only 11% complete a Bachelor’s Degree (Engle & Tinto 2008). This is why FLI to Graduation works to empower FLI students so that they can “fly” to graduation as smoothly as possible with others on the same journey. Through near-peer mentorship, project-based learning, and career exploration, a cohort of incoming college students will develop skill sets to maintain their health and wellness, achieve academic success, and begin to become career-ready. This will be achieved through collaborative workshops and activities that encourage self-expression and community building, which lead to the cohort’s graduation from the program with completed portfolios. 

Daniel Torres Balauro: My name is Daniel Torres Balauro, a second-year student from American Samoa currently attending Swarthmore College, majoring in Environmental Governance and Policy. Raised in the South Pacific Islands, I hold deep personal interests in seeking solutions to key issues relating to environmental sustainability and development. Along this, I am passionate about amplifying the voices of those most marginalized by the climate crisis, and believe in the necessity of addressing this issue through a multifaceted approach ingrained in both environmental and racial justice. 

The South Pacific islands are among the most vulnerable to the adverse impacts of the climate crisis. Despite this unfortunate fact, mainstream climate change discourse continues to exclude frontline communities like the Pacific leading to their underrepresentation and misrepresentation. My project aims to address these inequalities by developing a program to equip Pacific Islanders with the political advocacy tools to effectively contribute to important climate justice discourse. In doing so, it is my hope to shift the Western-centric paradigm of environmentalism to one that not only includes, but centers the voices of those most affected by climate change.

Juliane Ding: I am a current junior at Swarthmore double majoring in Political Science and Studio Art. I also have a deep interest in urban design, cultural anthropology, and cognitive science. With experience as a mural painter, art therapist, and podcast producer, I believe in art and media as a way of storytelling to raise awareness for various platforms such as sustainability, fast fashion, prison reform and international policies. 

I pursued a post-conflict social innovation project in Hiroshima centering hibakusha testimony to connect the international audience to get involved in anti-nuclear weapon advocacy. Using digital media, we hope to push forward these stories to a wider audience in a pursuit for more populations to know of the impacts of nuclear weapons and the harm of our governments in continuing their nuclear weapons programs. 

Lamia Makkar: I am in my final year at Swarthmore College, where I am double majoring in Computer Science and Anthropology. I am an international student from Egypt and France and have been involved on campus in various roles pertaining to economic development, social innovation and diversity. My personal background and experience working for various development projects around the world has shaped my personal mission: to cultivate access to effective and sustainable avenues of social change for all.  

My main focus is supporting people to create value for themselves through education and social entrepreneurship. I launched my first venture, Haiti: Hands On, at the age of 13. Haiti: Hands On is a nonprofit that works with communities in rural Haiti to co-create education opportunities and today, we are educating hundreds of children every year. This experience exposed me to many of the pitfalls of the traditional foreign aid model and pushed me to embrace social entrepreneurship as a local development tool in emerging markets, as ideas can come from and be implemented by those most in tune with local needs. After 3 years of research in developing countries, including fieldwork in Haiti, Egypt, Rwanda, Kenya and Ghana, I launched Enpàk Ayiti. This project curates centralised, context-based entrepreneurship and innovation tools in Haitian Kreyol to equip Haitian changemakers with the language and knowledge to be lifetime social innovators.

Mwangangi Kalii: I am a second year student at Swarthmore College. I am studying Mathematics and Economics. In my free time I like to play bass guitar and piano, consume a lot of music theory, and walk/run.

The project that I am currently working on is on economic development through education. The way that I intend to implement this project in my community in Kitui County, Kenya is through creating after-school programming in schools in the area. The problem this project seeks to address is the high number of students dropping out of primary and secondary school in the county. The change I would like to see is fewer students dropping out of school, because school is not engaging enough for them to stay. 

Sannan Dhillon: I am a second-year student at Swarthmore College from Lahore, Pakistan. I’m majoring in Economics and Political Science with a focus on public policy. At Swarthmore, I also serve as a Lang Center Associate for Economic Development where I curate knowledge about economic development and guide fellow students. Growing up in Pakistan, a country with the third-highest out-of-school population and one of the lowest literacy rates, I am fortunate to now be studying at one of the leading higher education institutes in the world. This realization drives my passion to make quality education accessible to students around the world.

Approximately one million school-going students in Pakistan are expected to drop out during the current pandemic and even those who stay enrolled will suffer from significant learning losses. In this context, my project titled “Helping Schools Help Themselves”, aims to design and implement low-cost interventions that help low-fee schools in Pakistan to increase student retention rates and overcome learning losses. These interventions will include teacher-training workshops, tailored curriculums, an increase in parent-teacher interaction, and the use of EdTech (Education Technology) tailored for resource-deficient schools. EdTech not only enables distance learning but also allows the school to track student performance so that students who are at the risk of dropping out can be helped in a timely manner. 

Shay Downey, a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, is in her third year at Swarthmore College as a pre-law student majoring in Cognitive Science. She enjoys music and theater performance as a vocalist, trombonist and actor and she loves the sport of rugby! Most importantly, Shay is driven by intense commitment to the empowerment of Indigenous Peoples. Growing up in Northeast Oklahoma, she was surrounded by her heritage, and always enjoyed the sacred knowledge of her elders. 

Shay’s interest in Native communities continues today in her project ᎤᎳᏂᎩᏓ ᎠᏂᎨᏯ (u-la-ni-gi-da  a-ni-ge-ya) that works to address the issue of violence against Indigenous women. 

Her project is centered on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, and is taking a systems change approach – mapping out the issue to find leverage points for impact. Using a curriculum that combines financial literacy, entrepreneurship, and business ownership, Cherokee women in the program will be given the tools necessary to achieve financial stability and in turn break down a vicious cycle in the system of violence. Shay’s project aims to acknowledge the rich history of every individual participant by approaching topics with cultural competency and tailoring the curriculum to amplify Indigeneity. Every participant will not only have the opportunity to develop their innovation, but also to strengthen their community and revitalize the overall economic standing of tribal lands at-large. By empowering Indigenous women, every community will have expanded their network of businesses and created role models for young Native girls to recognize the strength and historic leadership of women in tribes. 

Jiro Ikemoto, Book Project - In a depopulated town in rural Japan with no bookstore and a library with a few books, Jiro created a program “Morning Reading” for towners, both students and adults, providing an opportunity for them to gather at a café one morning a week to enjoy reading books over scrumptious French toast or pancakes Jiro makes.

Tetsu Kurumisawa, Interdisciplinary High School Research Program - Combining flexible mindset of high schoolers and professional knowledge of experts, Tetsu created a six-month program for them to collaboratively come up with new solutions towards the issue of plastic pollution in the ocean. He plans to stretch to other issues.

Yuria Iyano,Hair Donation for Children – Yuria and her sister created a hair donation system with high transparent for children who suffer from cancer. Over the past 4 years, they have gathered hair from 3,000 people nationwide, having 13 wigs made by a top-level manufacturer to date.

Yujin Yamaguchi, Sustainable Game - Yujin organizes educational programs to help people take actions, sometimes for students to get interested in social issues, and other time for corporate employees and students to induce collaborative efforts. He is also producing a documentary film on the infamous detention centers for asylum seekers, raising awareness of how people are excluded in Japan.

Sara Kumagai, BookSwapJapan - Inspired by “Little Free Library” that she saw in the US, Sara started a weekly pop-up outdoor library where people exchange books and enjoy in-person socialization, staying away from smartphone screens. Now the model has been copied and spread to two other areas near Tokyo, with two more sites in the pipeline to join.