Sharon Jan '14 and Bianca Shiu '14 were recently awarded the 2014 Napier Award for Creative Leadership, a $10,000 stipend given to fund graduating students' projects for change, in the realms of peace, social justice and environmental sustainability. Jan and Shiu are the founders of the Weekly Writing Workshop (3W) program, an initiative in which 28 Pomona College students give individual writing instruction to approximately 70 underprivileged fifth through ninth grade students to prepare them for college. For their Napier project, Jan and Shiu plan to expand the 3W program to college campuses across the nation, creating a standardized curriculum and coordinating two national training conferences for mentors.
Started in 2011, the Napier Fellows program matches Claremont Colleges 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. At Pomona, students with project proposals are selected through the Draper Center for Community Partnerships and a faculty panel, led by Professor of History and Chicana/o-Latina/o Studies Tomás Summers Sandoval. At the end of the year, select Napier fellows are awarded a prize to pursue their projects. The other Pomona fellows were seniors Katherine Garcia and Mitsuko Alexandra Yabe.
The idea for Jan and Shiu's award-winning project came out of Pomona College Professor Jerry Irish's Religion, Ethics, and Social Practice class, a Napier course comprised of college students and Pilgrim Place residents.
"A big component of that class was experiential learning in the community. I interacted with underserved students through local nonprofits Pomona Hope and Uncommon Good. During that time, I noticed that many of the students were struggling with their writing skills. Seeing that specific need in the community drove the creation of the Weekly Writing Workshop, " says Shiu, a neuroscience major with plans to work in either the education or nonprofit sector.
Now plans are underway to start chapters at Reed College, MIT, the University of Texas at Austin, Skidmore College and Cornell University.
"Working with Napier helped us articulate our vision for growth and continue to develop our values for collaboration. Getting the award is an exciting next step in seeing how far we can take 3W," says Jan, who will graduate with a degree in economics and start working next year with LinkedIn as a global sales organization associate.
Davie and Joy Napier were longtime residents of Pilgrim Place who had spent their careers as influential teachers and mentors at Yale and Stanford, passionate for causes of peace and justice. After their deaths, their friends at Pilgrim Place started the Napier Initiative in honor of their lives and work.