Pomona seniors Celia Neustadt and Courtney Miller have each been awarded $10,000 to pursue personal projects, in honor of peace advocates Davie and Joy Napier. The Napier Creative Leadership Awards are given to two graduating seniors from the Claremont Colleges each year to fund projects that focus on issues of social justice and sustainability.
Neustadt and Miller were selected from ten finalists by a board at the Pilgrim Place senior community, whose residents have a history of global service.
Neustadt plans to study youth and urban spaces in her hometown of Baltimore, MD. Neustadt will conduct sociological research at the Inner Harbor, a tourist destination on Baltimore’s waterfront that has increasingly criminalized the presence of teenagers, she said.
“This space, through lots of different processes and covert and overt signals, has excluded local youth,” Neustadt said. “It’s gotten to the point where there’s a 4 p.m. curfew so that youth under 18 won’t be there.”
The tension between tourists, law enforcement and city residents is exacerbated by rising crime rates in the Inner Harbor, Neustadt said.
“There really are not that many spaces that the city has focused on for development, especially on the east and west side where a lot of these kids come from. All of these spaces are ghetto developments,” Neustadt said. “The Inner Harbor is mainstream. It’s an opportunity to interact with a different public than they would be able to. I really think teens want exposure.”
Neustadt plans to help ten students from her high school, Baltimore City College High School. The students will work on individual research projects about the Inner Harbor, conduct interviews and present their findings at a public event over an eight-week period this summer.
“Then begins the second stage of the process, which is mediation between youth and cops, youth and city development and youth and urban planning centers in Baltimore,” Neustadt said.
Neustadt said that she plans to make her project youth-led.
“I don’t really know what will be done,” she said. “I’m really just there to lend support, advice and skills. Basically, this diffuse kind of frustration exists in this community about being excluded from the space, and my whole idea is that I’m creating a place for an outlet. If they decide the police presence is the biggest issue, that’s what we’ll do. If they decide that having a permanent space for youth is the biggest thing, that’s what we’ll do.”
The response has been overwhelming—over 150 students have applied for Neustadt’s program.
“I wasn’t really expecting that they were so excited about it, but they were,” she said.
Da’Mariah Jones, a high school student applying to work on Neustadt’s project, wrote that she was interested in making the Inner Harbor a space that anyone can enjoy.
“It’s a public place, and teens and young adults should not have to get asked why they are there,” she wrote in an e-mail to TSL.
Mei Adams, another student applicant, wrote that she sees the issues in the Inner Harbor as indicative of larger racial profiling issues.
“I think I can get real world sociological study experience with this project, which will give me valuable skills in working with other people, and actually help with this issue in Baltimore, especially around the harbor,” Adams wrote in an e-mail to TSL. “Starting at home seems like a fantastic way to make the world a better place.”
While Neustadt’s work was inspired by her experiences in her hometown, Miller’s project will take her abroad. An International Relations major, Miller spent last summer in Peru working with the Chijnaya Foundation, founded by Pomona anthropology professor Ralph Bolton. Using her grant, Miller will return to the Lake Titicaca region to work to increase the availability of clean water.
“I’ll be working with a Peruvian NGO that’s partnered to the Chijnaya Foundation to do a feasibility study and write a business model for the construction of a small, locally run water filter factory and distribute household water filters to communities where the water’s contaminated,” Miller said. “I’m doing the preliminary work, then ideally the Peruvian organization that I’m working with can apply for larger funding to actually build the factory.”
Miller’s work will be based on the needs she heard locals express during her previous visits to Peru. She asked her host father what kind of project would be most helpful.
“He, along with everybody else that I talked to, said clean drinking water,” Miller said.
Her stay in Peru will last four to five months, from early August to December.
Both Neustadt and Miller wish to continue their work beyond the limits of their specific projects. Miller plans to go on to graduate study in public health.
“The whole process with the Napier Awards has been so great, and I really recommend that anybody who would be interested in doing some type of socially- or environmentally-minded project look into it. It’s an amazing program,” she said.
Neustadt will write a critical ethnography of the Inner Harbor, which she hopes to co-publish with the students with whom she will be working. She then plans to develop a curriculum on youth and urban spaces.
“I would love for this model to become reproducible in other places. Already people have mentioned to me other spaces that they think could use interventions like this,” she said. “This is what I want to do.”