2023 Napier Fellows Empower Communities as Social Change Agents

Gang violence, eco-friendly environments, and support for trans communities—four Pitzer seniors have been named 2023 Napier Fellows for developing projects that address the needs and challenges connected with each of these issues.

Danny Camarena ’23, Jorge Angel Lizarraga ’23, Michelle Muturi ’23, and Sergio Quechol ’23 are among this year’s 12 Napier Fellows, a program established by the Claremont-based Napier Initiative to recognize graduating seniors of The Claremont Colleges who are committed to social justice.

The Napier Initiative is a partnership between the local Pilgrim Place senior community and the colleges to encourage mentorship between students and the senior community’s residents (who might have life experiences and professional involvement that aligns with students’ interests) as well as provide potential financial support to selected Napier Fellow projects.

Napier Fellows are eligible to be considered for a Napier Award for Creative Leadership: This spring, two $20,000 awards will be announced to support projects by two of this year’s Fellows.

According to the Napier website, the projects of Pitzer’s four 2023 Napier Fellows are:

Danny Camarena and Jorge Angel Lizarraga: Their project proposes the creation of a self-help space in Los Angeles County juvenile probation camps to teach juveniles practical life skills that are based in spiritual principles. To create a space for personal self-development, 16 weekly workshops will encourage constructive dialogues on race, literacy, and political consciousness to bring about needed change in their relationships and help them to imagine a future free of gangs and violence. Partnering with the Anti-Recidivism Coalition (A.R.C.) and with ReEvolution, Camarena and Lizarraga also intend to produce a curriculum that will aid young people in their life transformations as well as show them how to become agents of social change.

Michelle Muturi: After looking at the plain landscape and environment of three schools on the outskirts of Nairobi, Kenya, Muturi proposes to make eco-bricks from used plastic bottles filled with sand/plastic to beautify these schools. The project, which will be done by volunteers and students from the schools, will include benches, decorative fences, tree guards, and flower planters to improve aesthetics and create a joyous, child-friendly atmosphere. Fruit trees also will be planted to supplement the students’ diets with fresh fruit. The project takes advantage of a local competence-based curriculum that encourages learners to be creative in using locally available materials. The partnering agency, the Rongai East Rotary Club, will continue the project once it has been launched by Muturi.

Sergio Quechol: Making art can provide a strategy for agency, care, and joy for trans women communities in Brazil, and Quechol believes that this is critically needed as they continue to face threats of violence and the erasure of their identities. By merging theory and creative practices, Quechol plans three stages within the project: strengthening knowledge of LGBT+ studies through cultural immersion; constructing and offering a curriculum for travesti and trans femmes; and culminating in a presentation of art pieces made by participating students as a way of illuminating the presence of travesti and trans femmes Brazilians. Quechol will partner with The Museo Transgenero de Historia e Arte (MUTHA) in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, and will participate in workshops and offer courses there.

The Napier Initiative was established to honor the memory of longtime Pilgrim Place residents Davie and Joy Napier, whose leadership in the educational world involved their advocacy for a just, peaceful, and sustainable world. Since 2010, some 129 Fellows have been named.

Learn more about the Napier Initiative

About Pitzer College

Pitzer College is a nationally top-ranked undergraduate liberal arts and sciences institution. A member of The Claremont Colleges, Pitzer offers a distinctive approach to a liberal arts education by linking intellectual inquiry with interdisciplinary studies, cultural immersion, social responsibility, and community involvement. For more information, please visit www.pitzer.edu.

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