Fellowship to fund three local projects

For the first time in its five-year tenure, the Marina Keegan Fellowship Committee chose to fund three rather than two students in local artistic and activist projects this summer: Elijah Davis, Sophia Scanlan, and Emory Sabatini (all ’18).

This summer, Elijah will create a documentary film highlighting the difficulties black students at underfunded Boston Public Schools face when applying to private schools; Sophia will host a book club for homeless families at the Washington Street Congregate Shelter in Dorchester; and Emory will organize three open forum town hall sessions in Boston for Hispanic immigrants.

First awarded in 2013 in honor of the late alumna Marina Keegan ’08, the fellowship grants between $500 and $2,500 to sophomores and juniors interested in pursuing art or activism projects over the summer. Applicants submit a two-page proposal outlining their intended project, their desired funding, and the way their endeavor would reflect Marina’s spirit.

The fellowship committee—consisting of English Teacher Beth McNamara, Director of College Counseling Amy Selinger, Senior Class Dean Louise Makrauer, Math Teacher Tom Randall, Drama Teacher Mark Lindberg, Marina’s former classmate Luke Vargas ’08, and Marina’s parents, Tracy and Kevin Keegan—selected the three winners from an unprecedented number of 19 applicants.  

“We were very moved by the range of projects, the individual students’ interests, and the clear passion in all proposals,” Ms. McNamara said. “[They] showed a noteworthy combination of personal investment, larger engagement, and tangible outcome.”

Elijah’s personal experience as a black student from a public school applying to BB&N inspired the idea for his project. Beginning in June, he will film interviews of parents, admissions officers, and black students and alumni at nearby ISL schools, using between $600 and $800—depending on gas fees—to travel around New England.

“I want to put a face to the applications and paint a multifaceted and authentic picture of the process,” he said.

Elijah said his goal is to provide admissions officers with greater insight into the background of these students and the financial disadvantages they face. Additionally, he hopes students aspiring to apply to private school will learn more from the film about what admissions officers look for in applicants.

“I want to give [the students] a renewed sense of opportunity. Their goals are drastically diminished because of a lack of resources as well as teachers who tell them their limits,” he said.

Sophia plans to host a series of five book club sessions for the six families living at Dorchester’s Washington Street Congregate Shelter, which she discovered when volunteering at Heading Home—an organization that supports homeless families. Even though the children range in age from 6 to 14, they all have a similar, below average reading level, the shelter’s program manager said.

Each week will have a certain theme, with Sophia and the families reading books, snacking, and doing an activity related the idea. For instance, one week the group will read a collection of Dr. Seuss books, eat green eggs and ham, and write poems in Dr. Seuss-esque language. Sophia will use her $650 grant to purchase books, snacks, items for the activities, and journals where the kids can write down their thoughts about the stories.

She said she was drawn to the fellowship opportunity because a few years ago she had read Marina’s book The Opposite of Loneliness: Essays and Stories and admired Marina’s dedication to writing.

“Being a reader and writer myself, I really appreciated Marina’s enthusiasm for literature, so I thought applying for the fellowship would be a nice way to further our common interest,” she said.

Helping children develop that same interest in reading and writing is one of her goals, Sophia added.

“My main goal, though, is to give the families a good time,” she said. “For parents and kids, I imagine it can be lonely, sad, and boring to be at a homeless shelter, so I hope this club will be a good way to take their minds off of that and just have fun with books.”

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