Amanda Eric ’25 is driven to help communities facing global climate change challenges and has landed a scholarship to aid in this mission. Announced in late August, Eric was awarded the 2023 Obama-Chesky Scholarship for Public Service. The scholarship provides students financial aid, travel experiences and a network of mentors and leaders to support them.
Eric, a cognitive science major from Magnolia, Delaware, plans to focus on helping transform frontline communities. “I aim to utilize cognitive justice to advance climate resiliency in communities with limited resources, capacity, safety nets and bureaucratic power,” she says.
The scholarship provides students with up to $50,000 in financial aid for their junior and senior years of college. It also includes a travel stipend to pursue a summer public service-based project in summer 2024, as well as access to a network of leaders in different areas of service. According to Eric, the scholarship is vital for her to not only pursue her interest in public service and make meaningful connections but also support herself financially while in college.
“I am a college student. I’m hustling. I have had three jobs every single semester, so the financial stability is a blessing. This scholarship will also open up a network for me to connect with folks from a variety of backgrounds who are helping communities that, just like me, also see themselves in,” Eric says. “I’m really intrigued by fair trade approaches, like making sure there are collective led agriculture and clean energy processes.”
Environmental issues like these hit especially close to home for Eric. Her mother is from Bridgetown, Barbados, and her father is from Lagos, Nigeria. Her parents came to the United States for new opportunities, leaving behind regions of the world facing significant socio economic difficulties. On top of that, these communities endure environmental hardships such as water scarcity and contamination, agricultural issues, erosion, rising sea levels, flooding and hurricane risks.
“It’s knowing that my parents’ strength to come to the states for greater opportunities inspires me as I create a path for myself to connect with my ancestral roots by tending to the earth and communities that are the backbone of different regions across the globe,” Eric says.
Eric has explored the landscape of environmental advocacy through many outlets including working with Elemental Excelerator through the Pomona College Internship Program (PCIP). The nonprofit organization funds and supports entrepreneurs looking for solutions to address climate change and uplift people and communities around the world. It’s an organization she sees herself continuing to do work with in the future.
“I want to explore my own relationship with the many gifts Earth provides through the development of healthier, thriving communities, especially when connecting communities with ancestral based and newer resources, such as helping in the deployment of new climate technology into frontline communities,” Eric says. “I did not get to this point by myself. It took a village. That village extends out through my family, through teachers, professors, friends and communities near and far from me. And I feel grateful that I’m now expanding my village through this scholarship program, especially knowing there's also a legacy behind President Obama and Mrs. Obama, and the work that they’ve been able to do when it comes to public service.”