Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
Every year, six sophomores are awarded the Eugene M. Lang Opportunity Scholarship to pursue their interests in a social project around the world. This year, the winners are Tyler Alexander ‘17, Raven Bennett ‘17, Fatima Boozarjomehri ‘17, Bolutife Fakoya ‘17, Chase Fuller ‘17, and Sedinam Worlanyo ‘17.
This year’s winners have a diverse range of projects, including emergency aid, rape prevention, and digital as well as English literacy. Their inspirations are as diverse as their final projects. Alexander, a trained EMT who seeks to create a CPR educational project in Haiti, had his passion for social work sparked by international exposure.
“In the winter of my freshmen year I went to one week in Haiti just to volunteer in a hospital,” said Alexander. “I went there and you could talk days about how much different it is and whatnot. There were a lot of good things going on, but I saw a lot of room where I, along with the college, could help out.”
Others had inspirations closer to home. “I saw a lot of people that I know being affected by sexual assault,” said Bennett, who seeks to embark on rape prevention in high school. “I saw a lot of work being done on how to deal with this after the fact. But I really wanted to get to the root of the causes of assaults and I think there is a very big social element. I think it is a social epidemic.”
Inspiration is one thing, but implementation is another. Close support of the community is an essential part of the Lang Opportunity Scholarship for some members. In preparation for her project, Worlanyo mentioned how she talked to member of Ghana’s Parliament in the district she wanted to work in. “I was very appreciative about the overwhelming support and excitement for my project from the community members,” she said.
While the planning process was elaborate, there is always the opportunity for a further change in plans. Boozarjomehri first sought to improved English literacy in rural Iran, but later decided to change tack after learning of the emerging trend of child kidnapping in Tehran for the purposes of selling them as child labour. “Right now I am trying to shift this project to these children and maybe set a school in parts of Tehran,” she said.
The Lang Scholars’ reactions to winning the scholarships were as wide ranging as their projects. Bennett said she was initially “in a state of shock and was very much overly quiet.” Not only will she pursue this project in the coming years, but she hopes it will be part of her prospective graduate research in psychology and find means to combat sexual assault.
Happiness also describes the students’ reactions to winning the award. “The first thing I thought when I won was we were going to save so many lives with this money and with the support of the school,” said Alexander, whose project on CPR training has taken a lot of his leisure time.
Worlanyo stated that she felt gratitude. “I looked at it as blessing that is going to empower me to be a blessing to other people,” she said.
The stake of the issues at hand and the competitiveness of the scholarship makes the Lang Scholarship one of the most impactful awards Swarthmore offers. The application process is extensive, and much groundwork has to be laid before the actual award is given. With such inspiring projects, the lives of these award winners will be busy but meaningful.
Featured image courtesy of Natasha Chak ’18.