“I have a very simple, easy, all-consuming, impossible charge with which to charge you. Work, in whatever work you do, to stop the weeping … to heal the wounds of the human family.”
Davie Napier spoke those words in 1972. Claremont’s Pilgrim Place, a senior community intended specifically for citizens spending a life committed to social justice, created the Napier Initiative four years ago in memory of Davie and his wife, Joy. Since then, the Initiative has raised $600,000, which they plan to use to construct a LEED certified activity center, the Napier Center for Creative Change, at Pilgrim Place.
This year, the Initiative began an annual $10,000 dollar grant that it awards to two graduating seniors of the Claremont Colleges involved in social justice work. Pilgrim Place resident Dr. Paul Minus—a chair on the Napier Initiative Planning Committee, which selects student grant recipients—explained that the Initiative aims to perpetuate the enthusiasm for justice represented by the Napiers’ work in social activism throughout the United States.
“They cut a wide swath all over the country,” Minus said, “They were extraordinary people with passions for peace and justice.”
Pilgrim Place aims to perpetuate this ideal, as its residents are extremely committed to social responsibility. Thus, the Initiative focuses to reward student efforts toward “creative change.”
Pilgrim Place and the Draper Center collaborated on recruiting candidates for the grants. Both institutions had input in the final selection. Draper Center Director Maria Tucker mentioned the Draper Center’s interest in the sustainability of the project and measurable outcomes as two core factors in choosing students.
Pilgrim Place’s committee also had specific qualities in mind for grant recipients. Minus mentioned social vision and leadership as important qualities.
“We’re looking for students with a strong passion for helping to change the world, make it more just, more peaceful, more green,” Minus said. “We want to help them on their way.”
This year, Jacob Cohen PO ‘11 and Takako Mino CM ‘11 received grants from the Napier Initiative. The two were selected from a group of 12 nominated students.
Using his grant, Cohen will work on education equity in New Orleans public schools. Cohen works with the Vietnamese American Young Leaders Association of New Orleans to help students give feedback on how education can be improved in the city. Though Cohen had been working on this project before receiving the grant, the $10,000 made it possible to continue and expand the range of the project.
“There is very little money to do community organizing, and even less to do youth organizing,” he said.
With the grant, Cohen has been able to put more money toward the smaller group of youth leading the campaign. He can now pay for their transportation to meetings and overnight trips and has been able to publish a report on education in Louisiana from a student perspective.
Mino, the other recipient, has been working for the Forum for African Women Educationalists on a debate program in eight schools throughout Uganda and Kenya. With the grant, Mino hopes to extend this program to Tanzania and Rwanda. Her mentorship has also allowed her to talk to residents of Pilgrim Place that are involved in education, the field she is planning on pursuing.
“I feel very honored to be part of the process,” she said. “We’ve met so many inspiring people at Pilgrim Place.”
Students nominated but not chosen for the grants still receive a one-year mentor-ship with a resident at Pilgrim Place as well as $250 for their various projects.
Tucker said Pilgrim Place’s mentor-ship opportunities will create beneficial connections between the colleges and the community.
“What [the students] told me is how excited they were to meet so many residents who had committed themselves to social justice throughout their lives,” she said. “My hope is that we can continue to collaborate with them to foster inter-generational relationships with the college, its students, and Pilgrim Place residents.”
Tucker also emphasizes that the mentor-ship goes both ways. She explained that many of the mentors at Pilgrim Place emphasized how inspiring the students were.
“They did such a good job matching the students with their Pilgrim Place residents,” she said.
Next year, the Napier Initiative will be expanded to offer grants at Stanford and Yale (two schools where Davie Napier was a professor) in addition to the 5Cs. These grants will be offered in addition to, not in competition with, grants given at the 5Cs.