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Seniors Courtney Miller and Celia Neustadt Recipients of the $10,000 Napier Award to Fund Projects of Social Change

Courtney Miller '12

Courtney Miller '12 / Photo courtesy of The Napier Initiative

Celia Neustadt '12

Celia Neustadt '12 / Photo courtesy of The Napier Initiative

Two Pomona seniors have been awarded the 2012 Napier Award for Creative Leadership, a $10,000 stipend for the graduating students to fund a project in the realm of social justice, racial justice, human rights, peace and the environment. Courtney Miller ’12 will pursue a pilot program for the production and distribution of ceramic water filters in the Puno region of Peru, and Celia Neustadt ’12 will work in her native inner-city Baltimore on a project that seeks to address how the redevelopment of the city’s Inner Harbor area affected and excluded local citizens.

Begun in 2011, the Napier Fellows program matches 5C students with mentors at Pilgrim Place, a senior community in Claremont that is home to individuals who spent their careers in religious and charitable nonprofit work. Each college can nominate up to three seniors for the year-long mentoring program, during which they are matched with Pilgrim Place residents who share a vocational affinity. At Pomona, these nominations are managed through the Draper Center for Community Partnerships via a group of faculty put together by Draper Faculty Coordinator and Assistant Professor of History and Chicana/o~Latina/o Studies Tomás Summers Sandoval . At the end of the year, a selection panel chooses two students who “demonstrate outstanding leadership promise on social frontiers akin to those addressed by the Napiers.”

Davie and Joy Napier were longtime residents of Pilgrim Place who had spent their careers as influential teachers and mentors at Yale and Stanford. After their deaths, their friends at Pilgrim Place sought a way to honor their memory. Dr. Paul Minus, a chair on the Napier Initiative Planning Committee, told The Student Life last year that the Napiers “cut a wide swath all over the country. They were extraordinary people with passions for peace and justice.”

Miller, an international relations major, plans to move to Peru after graduation. She has previously worked in southern Peru with Professor of Anthropology RalphBolton and has a strong interest in public health. Upon her return, she will launch a feasibility study on a pilot program for the production and distribution of low-cost ceramic water filters for the region. She plans to work closely with local groups to help them take the initial steps to developing a small, locally run factory for the filters.

Neustadt, a sociology major, plans to return to her native Baltimore to partner with local youth to implement a unique program geared toward exposing the inequities of local renewal efforts. She is particularly interested in the Inner Harbor area, which has become a major tourist destination. She plans to recruit and train a team of 10 high school students who will conduct interviews among people who were excluded and otherwise negatively impacted when this area was redeveloped. They will then confront tourists in the Inner Harbor with the results of the team’s research and work toward establishing a permanent space for local Baltimore youth there.

Last year, Jacob Cohen ’11 won one of the inaugural awards for his work in helping young Vietnamese Americans in New Orleans challenge the systematic injustices that affect the public schools serving their community. He was also a recipient of Davis and Strauss awards for this work.

Emeritus Professor of Religious Studies Jerry Irish is also partnering with the Napier Initiative on a new class this semester, “Religion, Ethics and Social Practice: Intergenerational Learning Partnership on Vocations for Social Change.” There are 21 students in the class alongside 12 Pilgrim Place residents who are auditing. Students must work in an approved community placement for at least four hours per week, and one of the class goals, according to the syllabus, is that the “ fertile mix of age perspectives, experiences, and our work together will culminate in student proposals for a three to nine month project of social change somewhere in the U.S. or abroad.” 

The Draper Center partners the students with their community work placement and is sponsoring the return of Cohen, last year’s winner, to speak to Irish’s class and attend some other activities on campus and at Pilgrim Place.

The Napier Initiative also includes the Napier Center for Creative Change at Pilgrim Place, which will serve as a gathering place for dialogue, prayer and fun, and the Napier Medal, which is awarded annually to an individual “whose life exemplifies the vision of a world transformed, where justice, mercy and peace prevail throughout God’s creation.”