Compton Mentor Fellowships


Fellowship Awards in 2003

Joanna Burch Brown (Oberlin College)

East London Growth Project:
Joanna will develop a London-based community gardening project for refugees and victims of torture, modeled on the Natural Growth Project. The East London Growth Project will regenerate a portion of abandoned land in Hainault, an area of East London. Joanna will be working with families from a wide range of countries, including Iran, Iraq, Kosovo, Turkey, Albania and Lebanon. The families will be referred to the ELGP through the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture. The ELGP will offer refugee families a green space to shape and have as their own; will encourage creative forms of expression; will develop the sense of community and connection to place; and through grounded practice help people to live less painfully with hard memories. Gardening is fundamentally life-affirming and offers a way for people to contribute to their community, simultaneously regenerating land and gaining a sense of healing themselves. This project combines values of community, regeneration, and environmental sustainability. Joanna's mentor, Jenny Grut, founded the Natural Growth Project and has run it for the past ten years. The Natural Growth Project will serve as both model and midwife for the East London Growth Project.

Kasia Kedzia (Clark University)

The Role of Polish Women in a Society in Transition:
Kasia will return to her homeland of Poland to explore and formulate an understanding of the transformation of women’s identities and how that relates to politics, power and influence in society. A number of key questions form the substance of her participatory research project: How do Polish women conceptualize the world around them and identify with the politics of their country? To what extent and in what ways do they feel a part of the transition their country is going through? How do they experience femininity or lack thereof, and what are their views on women’s rights? How do they interpret messages concerning women’s roles depicted in mainstream media? To answer these questions is to put together the puzzle of women’s changing roles in a country in the midst of transition to democracy and market economy. Kasia’s mentor, Dr. Graff, is a professor at the American Studies Center at Warsaw University in Poland. Her interests include narrative theory, feminist theory, the history of the American Women's Movement, and the modern novel. She currently is working on an anthology of American feminist essays.

Jennifer Koch (Berea College)

Jen will be working in collaboration with Ron Rivera and Potters For Peace (PFP), a non-profit that works predominantly in Nicaragua to support poor, mostly rural potters. Jen’s project was inspired by PFP's work and a simple, kiln technology that they have worked with in the past. She will be in Managua for the year, working to develop this technology, which is a simple system that uses a small motor to blow agricultural by-products such as saw dust and coffee and rice husks into an already pre-heated kiln atmosphere. Due to the heavy deforestation which Nicaragua has experienced, artisans who have historically relied on gathering and purchasing fuel-wood to fire their products have found it increasingly difficult. Jen will conduct a number of workshops with potters, brick makers and lime producers who are interested in converting their kilns to this system. She will monitor the success of the technology and make improvements as needed. Jen hopes that the outcome of this project will see a thirty percent reduction of the wood needed by artisans for their kiln firings. Jennifer’s mentor Ron Rivera, a potter and sociologist and the director of PFP's Nicaraguan efforts, has lived and worked in nearly every country in Latin America. He moved to Nicaragua eighteen years ago to support political action and change.

John Kimble (Princeton University)

John’s project will focus on predatory lending practices and trace the effect of these practices on the well-being of specific neighborhoods in Oakland, California. The sub-prime lending market is the fastest growing sector of the lending industry and is also the least regulated. Sub-prime lending is an important means by which higher-risk loan applicants can gain access to financial resources that mainstream lenders are unwilling to provide. The nature of this market and the consumer groups it serves, typically those with few options and limited familiarity with the legal and financial processes, leave them susceptible to adverse consequences. The state of California has led the way in addressing this growing problem both through legislation and by suing lending institutions whose practices the state believes to be predatory. California is doing so in a national environment that has recently become quite hostile to predatory lending regulation. Congress is currently pressing forward with legislation that would invalidate state efforts to empower consumers to sue predatory lenders and the investors who fund them. John’s goal is to produce a report that paints a portrait of the ways in which the lending system is affecting Oakland economically and socially and to offer solutions for change. His mentor in this effort will be Kevin Stein, Associate Director of California Reinvestment Committee.

Zachary Moser (Oberlin College)

Third Ward Community Bike Center
The Third Ward Community Bike Center will be a community-based, non-profit bike organization with two main purposes: to provide facilities that increase the accessibility of bikes and to engage in bicycle advocacy. The Bike Center will be designed to make bikes more accessible to the residents of the Third Ward (one of Houston’s poorest neighborhoods), to encourage bike commuters in nearby neighborhoods, and to teach bike repair to local youth. It seeks to provide low-cost transportation alternatives and catalyze change in both transportation and development. The Bike Center’s proximity to downtown, new urban developments, and the University of Houston make it an excellent location for encouraging a commuter culture. Zach will partner with Project Row Houses, community after school programs, local schools, and other local groups that work with young people to teach youth practical bike repair skills while helping them reconsider their own relationship to technology. Zach’s mentor, Rick Lowe, is a Houston based artist/activist. In 1992, Rick founded Project Row Houses, an arts and cultural community located in the historically significant and culturally charged Third Ward of Houston. He continues to run Project Row Houses and to work with communities throughout the country creating public arts projects.

Elizabeth Ellis (Vassar College)

Liz’s project is a documentary film in which Dutchess County (New York) serves as a microcosm of issues that are crucial to contemporary land use in the United States. The suburban sprawl that has swallowed Westchester County and much of New Jersey has only recently crept into Dutchess County, where small farmers struggle to stay afloat amid changing economic conditions. As suburban space continues to expand, many American communities are asking how we can preserve small farms and redesign our suburban communities to embrace a diverse social fabric and development that is compatible with existing populations and environments. Liz believes that the filmmaking process is a powerful vehicle for change. She designed her mentor fellowship plan to explore how the filmmaking process and product can inspire dialogue and action about suburban development and food production. Liz chose Ralph Arlyck, a filmmaker, as her mentor. Ralph shares her interests in neighborhood politics and has a strong connection with the local community. His extensive experience as an independent filmmaker and a long-time resident of Dutchess County make him an ideal advisor for this project.

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