2014 Scholarship Recipients
A 2014 graduate of Saint Olaf College, Sudip Bhandari, 23, grew up during the Nepali Civil War (1996-2006), both a witness to and victim of Maoist violence.
Forced as a child to flee his home village with his family, he vowed to one day work for justice in Nepal. His plans took shape at St. Olaf College, where he first learned the true story of the Holocaust, a part of history suppressed in Nepal, and the country’s misrepresentation of Hitler as a transformative leader who had united Germany following World War I. Inspired by the example of fellow Nepali Subhash Ghimire, 2009 Hawkinson schoalr, he worked closely with St. Olaf professor Kristina Thalhammer to creat the Anne Frank Project Nepal, which uses the story of Anne Frank and the Holocaust to educate Nepali youth about the importance of speaking out for human rights and standing up for justice. In the summer of 2011, despite government restrictions on freedom of speech, Sudip was able to reach more than 2,300 middle and high school students and donate hundreds of Holocaust-related books to their schools by maintaining the educational nature of the project. Sudip’s message focused on the dangers of devaluing people based on religion, race, sex, class or political affiliation, including ways to resist the country’s oppressive caste system, a largely taboo subject.
For these efforts, Sudip received an Outstanding Educator Award by the Anne Frank Center USA and received a $10,000 Davis Projects for Peace grant and the support of the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam. He returned to Nepal in the summer of 2012 to teach more students and to build a permanent resource — the Anne Frank Peace Library in a rural low-caste village. He also lobbied the Minister of Education in Nepal to officially include the Holocaust and Anne Frank in history textbooks.
His long-term plans include graduate education in public health, specializing in violence epidemiology, which focuses on strategies to prevent youth violence. In the meantime, he will use his scholarship to help establish an Anne Frank school to educate future generations of Nepalese about peace and justice.
Professor Kristina Thalhammer of St. Olaf’s Department of Political Science wrote: “Despite his youth, Sudip has become an outstanding educator and is making a real difference in the ways teachers and students in Nepal look at history and their own future.”
A native of Nigeria, Uzoma Abakporo, 28, is enrolled in the School of Public Health’s master in public health administration and policy program at the University of Minnesota. Drawing on his personal experience bringing health care to an isolated region in Nigeria, he is focusing his studies on addressing health disparities in Africa due to race and socioeconomic status.
In 2010, following graduation from the College of Medicine at the University of Lagos, Uzoma volunteered with Nigeria’s National Youth Service Corps in an extremely underdeveloped area that lacked any modern health care services and was fraught with violence and ethnic division. Bringing together community heads of rival groups, small business owners, market women representatives and other stakeholders, he succeeded in building consensus around health care and led efforts to bring basic medical services to the area. Based on the framework established by the project, the clinic has remained functional and staffed by primary care physicians.
Uzoma plans to return to Nigeria after completing his master’s degree to establish a non-governmental organization aimed at renovating and equipping primary health care centers in underserved areas of Sub-Saharan Africa. At the same time, he intends to be an advocate at the federal government level for policies to improve access to care for underserved populations.
In 2014, Uzoma served as a volunteer and organizer at the Nobel Peace Prize Forum in the Twin Cities, and is a member of the Health Disparities Working Group at the University of Minnesota.
Donna McAlpine, associate professor and director of the Masters in Public Health Program in Public Health Administration and Policy, wrote: “Uzo has brought to our program a keen awareness of the problems faced by people in low-income communities where even the most basic health care is lacking and a recognition that health, political and community stability are intertwined… I am confident he will be a leader in global public health.”
Scott DeMuth, 27, is currently a PhD student in the Department of Sociology at the University of Minnesota, focusing his studies on issues affecting Native Americans, especially the Dakota community. He graduated from the University of St. Thomas in 2009 and earned a master’s degree in sociology from Minnesota in 2012.
Scott’s research interests explore the intersections of law, health and social movements with a particular focus on their implications for social justice for Native American communities as well as broader racial and economic disparities. He is a board member of Oyate Nipi Kte, an organization dedicated to the revitalization of Dakota language and traditional life. Through this organization, he helped develop the Dakota Akicita Teca (New/Young Warriors) Scouting Program, a language and cultural program engaging youth in hands-on learning about Dakota culture.
He has served as an indigenous evaluation consultant for the Ain Dah Yung Center that provides support services to American Indian youth and families in the Twin Cities. He is also developing curriculum for the Dakota language immersion school, the Bdote Learning Center.
Scott’s dissertation focuses on the impacts of indigenous language revitalization and social movements for land reclamation, and how these processes have the potential to reduce the high rates of suicide in Native American communities.
David Pellow, Don A. Martindale professor of sociology at the University of Minnesota, wrote: “Scott has abundant experience with activism in Native communities that he will draw from as he continues to his research and community work. I am confident he will produce results that are of high scholarly and public value.”
A community activist in West St. Paul and Maplewood, MN, Marie Garza, 34, hopes to become a police officer and one day run for public office. She earned an A.S. degree in criminal justice/law enforcement at Century College in White Bear Lake, and plans to use her scholarship to earn a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice at Metropolitan State University.
Marie characterizes her whole life as a struggle for peace and justice. She grew up in a household with domestic violence, poverty and illiteracy, and draws on those experiences in her efforts to promote greater cooperation and understanding between the Latino community and law enforcement in addressing domestic violence.
As a single mother, she joined the West Side Safety Council, helping neighbors navigate the criminal justice system. She created Liz’s Daughter, a nonprofit organization that provides ongoing domestic violence awareness, prevention and education in the Twin Cities. A focal point is its Brides March Against Domestic Violence that goes to the Minnesota capitol each year as an active protest against domestic violence. She is working for the passage of the proposed Crittenden/Schneider law to establish a domestic violence offender registry (named in memory of two police officers killed while responding to domestic disturbance calls) and serves on the DFL Latino Caucus, directing resolutions and endorsements that help move forward both native and immigrant Latino communities.
Jill Garcia, chair of the Latino DFL Caucus, wrote: “Marie is passionate about justice in all its forms. Her personal experience with poverty, racism and violence drives her goal to impact the lives of young Latinos in ending these problems.”
Atlese Robinson, 21, is a senior at Augsburg College, where she is majoring in theater.
A playwright, poet, and educator, Atlese describes herself as “a young artist who is a product of triumph,” using personal experiences as a starting point to bring awareness to the oppressions she and others face. Her artistic background includes the Penumbra Theatre’s Summer Institute and the St. Paul Central High School’s Central Touring Theater. During high school, she wrote a poem highlighting racial inequalities within the school system and, with others, performed the poem for groups of teachers and administration in the St. Paul Public Schools.
At Augsburg, she has served as arts and entertainment editor of The Echo newspaper, and regularly contributes thought-provoking articles and editorials to all sections of the newspaper. She has performed her original spoken word as part of Augsburg’s Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Convocation.
On campus, she is a core volunteer at Campus Cupboard, a food shelf for Augsburg students, and is a voice for students facing issues of hunger and homelessness. She is active in Augsburg’s Pan-Afrikan Student Union and LGBTQIA student services.
Sarah Meyers, assistance professor of theater arts at Augsburg College, wrote: “In everything she does, Atlese is committed to public discourse about issues that are pressing in our world and passionate about fighting injustices based on gender, sexuality, race, religion and class. She is a brilliant, generous, passionate activist who deserves to be recognized for her incredible commitment to peace and justice.”