Sara Murphy ’18 and Teofanny Saragi ’18 are each recipients of Donald A. Strauss Public Service scholarships. The award, in the amount of $10,000, is given to 15 California college sophomores and juniors annually to fund a public-service project to be carried out the following academic year.
Murphy, a chemistry major, linguistics minor and music lover, will use the award to expand a one-week summer music camp she led last summer at the dA Center for the Arts into a year-long after-school music access program for low-income students, ages 6 to 10, in the city of Pomona.
The initial one-week camp was funded by a Davis Projects for Peace grant which Murphy used to purchase 25 violins that were then donated to the dA Center for future community use. That initial project was inspired by her passion for music, her experience at the Draper Center for Community Partnerships, successful music access programs in the Los Angeles area and the mentorship and guidance of Draper Center Assistant Director Jose Ramirez.
“After the camp, the youth that we worked with wanted to keep playing music, but private lessons and other musical education resources are often inaccessible to low-income communities,” explains Murphy. “A lot of the youth and their parents were coming to Margaret Aichele [director of the dA Center] and advocating for further music programs at the dA. We wanted to continue this work and meet the needs of the community, so I worked with Margaret and some of the parents to come up with a more long-term proposal for the entire year (and hopefully beyond) that incorporated a plan for program sustainability.”
Murphy will spend the summer planning the program and working out logistics to launch at the beginning of the academic school year in the fall. She plans for students to attend group lessons once a week, with each student borrowing a violin from the dA that will be maintained by funding from the Strauss award. In addition, Murphy plans to bring the young music students to performances at Pomona College and to bring in musicians from their own community to perform for them
“I’ve played music since I was five. My whole family plays music and we have played together for years,” she says. “It is a very significant part of my life and identity and it was a creative outlet which brought me closer to my family.”
“It’s an injustice that not everyone can access music because it is such a fundamental form of human expression and has the power to shape and empower individuals and communities. It is a healing, passionate, wonderful thing, that can be used to pay homage to your cultural background or even as a force for personal or political change. However, a lot of these youth would never even see themselves as musicians, because the resources to make and learn music are often so inaccessible” she says.
Saragi, who is double majoring in Asian American studies and public policy analysis (with a sociology emphasis), plans to launch ethnic studies workshops at Prototypes, a non-profit organization in the city of Pomona that serves low-income women.
Her project was inspired by a number of things, including her Asian American studies courses, her work at the Draper Center and her work with the Asian American Resource Center (AARC). Through the AARC, she learned about the intersection between the Asian American and Pacific Islander community and the prison-industrial complex, and she met prison-reform activists Eddy Zheng and Ben Wang and learned about the ROOTS (Restoring Our Original True Selves) program. Modeled after an ethnic studies curriculum, ROOTS seeks to increase understanding about racial justice, culture, immigration/refugee history, health and culturally-competent reentry planning.
In addition, Saragi was influenced by a recent course at Pitzer College with Professor Laura Harris titled Community Poetry: Black Feminist Revolution, which led weekly poetry writing and performance workshops with the women at Prototypes.
Inspired by ROOTS, Saragi’s program will be called SEEDS: Seeking Educational Empowerment, Diversity, and Solidarity at Prototypes, which already provides "provides health and rehabilitation services for women recovering from the trauma of incarceration, a lack of adequate healthcare, housing, and education," she says. She will plan workshop sessions during the summer and implement the program throughout the school year.
SEEDS will be a new program for the women at Prototypes. It will center on lessons plans modeled after ethnic studies, exploring themes of social justice, personal story-telling and building pipelines for leadership. The workshops will be led by Saragi and student volunteers she plans to recruit from The Claremont Colleges. Towards the end of the program, she says, the women will have the opportunity to design their own workshops and take the lead during class.
“I want to be reflexive throughout the planning and implementation process of SEEDS. I want to acknowledge my positionality and prioritize reciprocal learning and mutually-beneficial relationship-building,” she says. “It is crucial to break down the barriers between elite institutions of higher education and members of the surrounding community. The knowledge that lives within the community should be deeply valued and regarded as thoroughly legitimate.”