The Garden Hill Fund program began in the fall of 2013, and from that first round through the present, it has been clear that Mountain School alumni are ambitious, thoughtful, and dedicated forward-thinkers. Their endeavors have been impressive, and several projects have had far-reaching positive implications. The Alumni Committee looks forward to adding many more inspiring GHF grant-funded projects to this list in the years to come.
Jackie Van Der Hout f10 ($7,300) Urban Watersheds in the SF Bay Area: Education, Restoration and Environmental Justice - California The California Urban Streams Partnership (CUSP) is a project of the Earth Island Institute based in Berkeley, California. This initiative creates a hands-on, community-based education and outreach program focused on collaboration with communities which have not traditionally had a voice in environmental movements. Garden Hill funding will be applied to the following three projects:
•Creek restoration in Hayward, CA with California State University East Bay students Jackie’s group will teach principles of soil bioengineering for creek restoration and empower students to complete a successful restoration. •Education on homelessness and urban indigenous leadership for urban creek groups Strengthen and diversify urban creeks movement by hosting a series of panels at the annual Salmonid Restoration Federation conference (SRF), a conference attended by scientists, students, environmental groups, tribes and government representatives. CUSP will also highlight the important work of urban indigenous groups in the field of restoration. It will feature the Sogorea Te Land Trust’s work re-acquiring and stewarding traditional Ohlone lands and the Amah Mutsun Land Trust’s programs in environmental work and education engaging tribal youth and elders on their traditional lands in the Santa Cruz area. •Outreach through CUSP’s California Streaming Newsletters CUSP will increase distribution of this twice yearly newsletter sharing scientific developments, policy changes, and lessons learned with the public and over 200 community-based groups urban creek stewardship across the west coast.
Jenny Van West f84 ($3,000) Musical Instruction & Performance Support for Asylum Seekers - Portland, Maine The Immigrant Music Connection offers a free guitar class, instrument-finding program, and a quarterly open mic for recent immigrants and their families. Jenny is a professional musician who has made it her mission to advocate for the immigrant community. Through this program founded in 2015, Jenny has met hundreds of immigrants in Maine, and has had the pleasure of building community with many of them. Making music together, a network is forged, skills are developed and shared, and a sense of belonging, purpose, and joy emerges. The Greater Portland Immigrant Welcome Center now serves as a home base for the music program. With this funding, Jenny can continue to positively impact individual lives through trauma recovery, language development, depression and anxiety relief, and social connection. This is Jenny’s second Garden Hill Fund grant, with the first awarded in 2016.
Jasmine Victoria f98 ($9,700) Grief Coaching - Puerto Rico Jasmine recently relocated to Puerto Rico to assist in the coaching and support for survivors of Hurricane Maria. For nearly 14 years, she has volunteered and worked for disaster relief services. Her mother, who she lost on 9/11 in New York, was half Puerto Rican, and the inspiration for Jasmine’s journey to help others directly impacted by disasters. With Garden Hill Funding, Jasmine is spending two months delivering mental health in the form of leadership coaching. She plans to test the efficacy of coaching in grief alleviation, and create a proof of concept that will hopefully lead to expanded coaching offerings on the island through her nonprofit, The Cathexis Project.
She aims to work directly with survivors who have experienced a close personal loss (death of an immediate family member) or who have lost a person and their business (small business owners dealing with dual loss). Her goal is to circumvent stigma around mental health support by offering leadership and performance coaching infused with coping skills for grief. This is Jasmine’s second Garden Hill Fund grant, with the first awarded in 2014.
Benjamin Weiss s15 ($9000) Havenly Fellowship — New Haven, CT
Havenly is a nonprofit with a mission to support and empower unemployed female refugees in New Haven. This grant supports the expansion of Havenly's culinary fellowship program. The fellowship combines paid work experience with educational workshops to prepare refugee women for employment. As one of the country’s largest centers for refugee resettlement, New Haven has become home to some of the world’s most vulnerable. But the city’s integration efforts are mainly focused on men and heads of households, leaving refugee women without the tools needed to create a new home in our country. One of the major obstacles facing refugee women is unemployment. Imagine trying to find a job with little to no English, no proof of previous work experience, no high school education and limited means of transportation. The unemployment rate for female refugees from countries such as Somalia and Iraq can range from 69 to 73%. Unemployment not only hinders refugees from gaining financial independence, but also perpetuates cycles of isolation and social marginalization. Read more about Havenly here.
Carmen Ribadeneira s15 ($2750) Cooking Supplies for Grinnell High School — Grinnell, IA
The aim of this project is to improve the health of low-income students and families in the Grinnell-Newburg School District and improve knowledge of healthy eating while supporting local farmers and strengthening Grinnell’s sustainable food system. This project will be an expansion of the existing work of Local Foods Connection (LFC) in the school district. For the past year, LFC has regularly purchased food (vegetables and beef sticks) from local farmers and donated it to a school nurse to distribute to students who are hungry. This project will continue this work and expand its reach and significance: the funds will purchase produce, meat, and eggs from local farmers as well as kitchen supplies (cutting boards, Crock Pots, cook books, etc.) to donate to the Grinnell High School Invisible Closet. This newly formed resource provides items such as coats, self-stable food, and toiletries for students in need. The project will add local healthy food and kitchen tools to benefit students and their families. Ultimate goals of the project are to minimized hunger in the area, improve knowledge of healthy eating, support local farmers, and strengthen Grinnell’s sustainable food system.
Chloe Zelkha s07 ($7109) Young Adult Grief Retreats Chloe plans to host two “Young Adult Grief Retreats,” bringing together groups of 20 and 30-somethings from across the country who have experienced significant loss. These residential, weekend-long gatherings will be hosted on retreat center farms in California and Massachusetts, harnessing the power of being close to the natural world, as well as gathering for a deeper, more intimate immersion experience. Inspired byThe Dinner Party, these retreats aim to help young adults who are grieving find “their people," which can be challenging in a landscape where grief resources tend to be geared towards children, teens, and older adults, and most often are based in hospital or other clinical or institutional settings. A weekend retreat of this kind will allow young people who are grieving to gather in spaces that are created for them by them.
Augustus Griffin f08 ($1141) Apis Arborea Apis Arborea plans to create locally adapted apiaries defined by watersheds. Using alternative hive designs and progressive beekeeping techniques bees will be encouraged to evolve with the environment they inhabit. Honey bees, Apis mellifera, are named for the human adored food they produce. The focus on honey informs how we deal with the animals, the expandable hive volume, spacing of hives, and colony reproduction methods. The goal of the Apis arborea project is to recenter the focus of attention on the bees rather than the product. By centering on trees—the natural habitat—rather than the honey, beekeepers can begin to develop strategies to help bees persist in a climate that is increasingly toxic to their existence.
Apis Arborea will provide natural nest sites for bees in the form of hollowed logs placed in trees. Log hives have greater insulation value, are placed at a more comfortable altitude, and less densely distributed than conventional langstroth hives. By limiting the hive size to between 35 and 40 liters—average wild hive volume—bees are encouraged to swarm. Though conventional practices discourage it, swarming is a natural process by which colonies reproduce. This process reduces the need to buy packaged bees, which introduce foreign genetics. The use of packaged bees stems any chance of creating locally adapted bee varieties. By encouraging watershed apiaries that do not introduce extrinsic genetic strains, Apis Arborea hopes to allow the bees to evolve, thereby “breeding” the most fit local gene pool.
Emma Clippinger f02 ($8000) Confronting Climate Change: Integrating Climate-Resilient Agriculture into the Gardens for Health Model
As climate change increases the dry periods in Rwanda and overall uncertainty around weather patterns, Gardens for Health International (GHI) seeks to develop dry season agriculture techniques that are effective, feasible, and affordable for the families the organization serves. This grant will allow GHI to research and trial various approaches for better soil fertility management, because well-managed soil can better retain water, allowing farmers to continue to grow food even when rainfall is limited. Emma is the co-founder of GHI.
Liddy Wendell s93 ($7000) Improving Educational Outcomes for Homeless Children — Seattle, WA
The goal of this project is to support a collaboration between Hilltop Educator Institute, a teacher training and professional development program, and Tomorrow’s Hope, a child development center serving homeless children, to improve the education they are offering their children. This grant will allow Hilltop to work with the administrators and lead teachers of Tomorrow’s Hope to develop organizational structures and a culture of reflective teaching practice among educators that is responsive to and driven by children—who they are as individuals, what their interests and passions are, and their home, family, and community cultures. Liddy is the Executive Director of Hilltop Educator Institute. Read more about Hilltop’s work here.
Rebecca Maurer s06 ($5000) Preventing Evictions and Lead Poisoning — Cleveland, OH Cleveland has twice the rate of lead poisoning of Flint, Michigan due to aging buildings and homes used for rentals. Few tenants know their rights or how to get their landlord to address lead hazards, and many face eviction when they raise concerns about lead paint. Rebecca, an attorney, recently opened a public interest law firm to spend half of her time on pro-bono work. The grant will help bridge a gap so Rebecca can continue her public service work until the income-generating portion of her business becomes more sustainable.
Brooke Brewer s96 ($5600) Documamas / Another Kind of Girl Collective — Jordan and Peru
The Another Kind of Girl Collective (AKGC), a media arts collective of young women living in displacement, began as a project working with Syrian refugee girls. In summer 2018 the AKGC will conduct a cross-cultural pilot project: a visual exploration, cultural exchange, and co-creation process between four teenage mothers living in two different displaced communities—two indigenous Shipibo teens in Lima, Peru, and two Syrian teens living as refugees in Jordan—resulting in a finished film. Each of the young women has previously made a film documenting her life within her respective community, but as they all step into their roles as mothers and transition into young womanhood, they want to document this moment, share it with others and, in one girl’s words, “show the world what it’s like to be a mother and a little girl at the same time.” AKGC will facilitate workshops with these artists to help them collaborate and to document their experiences of young motherhood in these transitional spaces. Through this, and future, cross-community collaborations, we intend to hone a model built on deep work, sustained relationships, and increased equity and access. We know there is a global power imbalance in representation through media, and we believe this work can be part of larger processes of shifting those power dynamics.
John Lynch s01 ($1200) Volunteer support for STEAM Youth Teacher Training — Boston, MA
Volunteering in community education at the South End Technology Center at Tent City (SETC), John will co-author a creative computing curriculum and mentor 25 youth teachers who will bring it to 600+ elementary students in free, city-wide STEAM camps. SETC invited John to develop curriculum for their Learn2Teach-Teach2Learn program, whose mission is “to create a critical mass of Boston youth creatively engaged in the latest STEAM (STEM + Arts) education who can help catalyze deep cultural change in their communities.” Each spring, the SETC trains 30 high school students of color as youth teachers. The youth teachers then bring the curriculum to free STEAM camps for elementary students each summer. In late July, youth teachers present their work to other professional educators and academics at the Scratch@MIT conference. John will have two roles as a volunteer: in the first role, he will develop curriculum to teach students to use MIT’s free programming language, Scratch, to create their own interactive stories and games, developing their understanding of computer science in a fun and personal way. Students will then build physical controllers to interact with their programs, learning about electrical engineering through craft and building projects. John's second role will be to mentor and train Learn2Teach-Teach2Learn youth teachers who run these lessons and activities for elementary students in the summer. Once the elementary summer programs begin, he will provide support to youth teachers in the field, and help them prepare for their Scratch@MIT presentations. John is a full-time stay-at-home parent who is taking a break from his career as an elementary math teacher, and the GHF grant will provide funding for childcare so John can attend SETC planning sessions and mentor students during the week.
Rose McDonough f00 ($2400) Growing Colorado Kids — Denver, CO
Growing Colorado Kids (GCK) advocates for newly resettled refugee youth by teaching important life skills and growing thousands of pounds of fresh produce. GHF funding will purchase blackberry bushes to expand our growing to fruits; will fund the 'Volunteers' line item in our budget; and will help pay for general operating expenses. GCK began in 2008 when founders Denise and Chris Lines became aware of food shortages affecting many of the young refugee children. The program began by utilizing inner-city garden plots to grow food with and for the youth and their families. Volunteers worked with the youth, educating them about gardening and creating a supportive community. The program underwent a shift in 2013 when GCK moved to a one-acre plot at the farm owned by the founders. This enabled all program youth to learn and work together and increase their capacity to produce food for their own families and to donate to local organizations fighting hunger. In a very short period of time, GCK has transitioned from primarily a hunger abatement program to a farm program that provides opportunities for learning, leadership, teamwork, community building, and fun. The high school graduation rate of GCK program participants is 100%, with all graduates either now in college or gainfully employed.
Sylvia Ryerson s04 ($4800) Voices Beyond Walls
Voices Beyond Walls is a participatory radio project that aims to enact meaningful and affordable communication for families separated by the U.S. immigrant detention system, and bring public awareness to the largely invisible crisis of prolonged and indefinite immigrant detention. The United States has the largest immigration detention system in the world, detaining approximately 380,000 to 442,000 people per year. Thousands of people—including legal permanent residents with longstanding family and community ties, asylum-seekers, and victims of human trafficking—are detained for weeks, months, and sometimes years. Immigrant rights activists have long called for an end to the inhumane practice of prolonged and indefinite detention. And yet, in a recent and devastating blow, on February 27, 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that people in immigrant detention have no right to periodic bond hearings, meaning there is no constitutional requirement to expedite their cases and ensuring that the cruel practice of prolonged detention will continue. People in prolonged detention are often isolated from access to legal assistance and community support, and are vulnerable to abuse. Staying in touch with one’s family is a critical lifeline of support. Yet even this right can become extremely difficult and prohibitively expensive—visitation time is limited, phone calls and travel are costly.
Sylvia is an independent radio producer, sound artist, and journalist who is working with families that have loved ones held in immigrant detention to create “audio postcards” from home. The pieces capture the sounds of everyday life—a walk through one’s neighborhood, family gatherings, a child being put to bed—and then weave these soundscapes together with music and family voices speaking their personal hopes, dreams, and memories, so that each audio postcard becomes a sonic affirmation of the recipients’ belonging to the world beyond detention walls, and to a home in the United States. The audio postcards will be broadcast on public radio stations to reach those currently in detention and the general listening audience. Each audio postcard is a unique act of resistance rooted in love that reveals the abnormality and inhumanity of our present immigration system, and imagines something better.
This is the second time Sylvia has applied for a GHF grant and the second time she has been awarded a grant. In spring 2015 she received $3500 for "Restorative Radio".
Tyler Eldridge s08 ($6000) Solar Home for Abandoned Youth — Sao Paulo, Brazil
We will create a solar power system at Lar do Menor, a children's orphanage in Sao Paulo. Lar do Menor is an orphanage founded in 1987 which takes abandoned children off the streets and provides an opportunity for them to live, learn, play, and grow. The solar system will reduce the orphanage's electricity costs by over $3,000 per year (and $37,500 over the life of the project), allowing them to better serve the children, as well as providing the children an opportunity to learn about energy/environmental issues and contributing toward Brazil's adoption of clean energy. The first objective of this project is the installation and continued operation of a solar power project at Lar do Menor's main building. The second objective is to create an avenue through which this project and similar projects can be supported by charitable giving. Tyler operates a small company, Brasol, which will contribute to the community by building and operating solar power systems for charitable organizations in Sao Paulo. Many people have expressed interest in contributing funds to build such solar power projects, and Brasol is willing to contribute its project management, design, and execution capabilities to further this effort. Success on this second objective will be the formation of a 401(c)3 organization capable of raising funds for additional charitable solar projects in Brazil. On both fronts, this project will also serve as a model for how businesses can create good in their communities. In Brazil, charitable work tends to be top-down through large organizations. This project offers an alternative: a small business leveraging its skills and capabilities to do good in its community. In this instance, Brasol will not only contribute to the successful installation of the solar power project but will also bear the costs of the on-going maintenance and up-keep of the system. Here, success would be additional small businesses following suit and finding ways to contribute their talents to building better communities. To see updates about the solar installation, see EMPower Brasil's Facebook page.
Amanda Harrison f13 ($4500) Yale Prison Education Initiative — New Haven, CT
The Yale Prison Education Initiative seeks to bring Yale college classes to students incarcerated in prisons in Connecticut. College-in-prison programs have proven their transformative and rehabilitative value both to underserved students of great potential in prison—who excel given the chance, who display extremely low rates of recidivism, and who go on to become leaders in their communities—and to instructors, for whom teaching in prison is an eye-opening reminder of the power of higher education.
Quinn Vittum f97 ($3000) Community Workshops for Re-use Hawaii — Honolulu, HI
Re-use Hawaii is a nonprofit organization dedicated to waste reduction through building material reuse, taking apart buildings as an alternative to conventional demolition. The salvaged material is made available as an affordable community resource at Re-use Hawaii's Redistribution Center. In partnership with the Honolulu Tool Library, Re-use is starting a new Community Workshops program to educate and demonstrate what can be created from salvaged material.
Sam Potolicchio s99 ($3000) Preparing Global Leader Beyond Big Cities — Moscow, Russia
Globalization has meant remarkable economic growth and development for urban centers, while leaving those left behind in rural areas around the world without skills and opportunities to thrive. This project will expand the field-tested model of the Preparing Global Leaders Forum programs for students and young professionals from underserved communities in Ukraine, Tajikistan, Brazil, Vietnam, Indonesia, and South Africa.
Shahbaz Soofi f08 ($8000) Black Seed Farmers Market Sunday Expansion — Worcester, MA
The Black Seed Farmers Market will expand its Sunday Farmers Market from one location to three locations. The two new additional locations are both situated within subsidized housing communities in Worcester, Massachusetts. Having access to a Sunday farmers’ market will make it much easier for eligible residents to utilize their Healthy Incentive Program (HIP) benefits as well as their WIC and Senior Coupons (all of which must be redeemed at a farmers’ market). This new project will also make it possible to employ more immigrant, refugee, and asylee youth workers as well as help to build community. This is the fourth time Shahbaz Soofi has applied for a GHF grant and the second time he has been awarded a grant. In fall 2015 he received $6,000 to launch the Black Seed Farmers Market, which is a program of Muslim Community Link.
Sophie Osorio f16 ($1500) Teens in Scrubs Medical Internship Program — New York, NY
Teens in Scrubs is a medical internship program for underrepresented public high school students interested in gaining hands-on exposure through shadowing physicians, nurses, and medical students, as well as general hospital volunteering and laboratory opportunities. Teens in Scrubs provides science-oriented students in the New York City area with an academic enrichment opportunity dedicated to career development before entering the professional world.
Danielle Regis s10 ($2500) Melanin in Higher Ed — Falls Church, VA
Danielle is creating Melanin In Higher Ed, a one-stop-shop website for underrepresented minority (URM) students going through the college application process. By placing all of the information integral to success in the college application process in once place, she hopes to democratize access. In addition, five college workshops will focus on empowering students with the tools to take their application process into their own hands and motivating them with the vision of what is possible. The project also focuses on increasing the visibility of underrepresented minorities who have completed college to the project’s target high school audience. Update: Read Danielle's write-up about one of her college essay workshops.
Dinah Shepherd s94 & Jess Brooks s88 ($2320) Family Play Weeks — Roxbury, MA
Family Play Week, a program of the First Teacher organization in Boston, began in 2016 as an effort to combat summer learning loss in children that live in Roxbury and Dorchester. There are virtually no consistent activities during the summer for children five years old and younger, and for the few camps that do exist for five-year-olds, the costs are often prohibitive. In 2016 First Teacher was able to facilitate a week long Family Play Week (like camp for the whole family) for families with children ages five and under who live in Roxbury. In 2017 First Teacher applied for sponsorship of two sessions of the week long Family Play Week for up to 20 families. The Garden Hill Fund grant will cover staff expenses for the two sessions. First Teacher is a community of parents and caregivers working together to prepare children for success in kindergarten and beyond. Founded in 2013 by Dinah along with other parents from Boston neighborhoods, First Teacher “envisions powerful parents cultivating lifelong learners in every neighborhood”. Dinah received a GHF grant in spring 2014 to help support the building of First Teacher, and she is now the organization’s Executive Director. To learn more, visit www.firstteacherboston.org.
Faisal Kirdar s07 ($7090) The Delta Scholar Project — New Orleans, LA
The Delta Scholar Project seeks to provide 20 high school and first year college students from a disadvantaged community in the Mississippi Delta—one of the poorest regions of the country—with weekly, tailored instruction and mentorship during the 2017-18 academic year. The program will pair students with certified teachers who are already personally familiar with the students and challenges in the community. The Delta Scholar Program will make use of Teach For America alumni in a capacity that serves students who would benefit from more individual attention than their schools can provide. The Garden Hill Fund grant will support hiring four certified teachers to mentor five students each for one hour per week.
Uriel Hernandez f07 ($7090) Branching Out: Community Orchard at Jack Farrell Park — East Palo Alto, CA
Leveraging the power of hundreds of community volunteers and existing matching funds for trees, Uriel will plan, coordinate, and build a vibrant community orchard in an abandoned corner of Jack Farrell Park in his hometown of East Palo Alto, California. Prior to the installation of a baseball field, this park was run-down and plagued by crime and drugs. The park has improved thanks to the ball field, but it still struggles to shake its old image. A nearly 6,000 square foot corner of the park remains barren and unused. The community has expressed a desire to transform this empty lot into a vital, tree-filled green space. Fruit trees are particularly culturally relevant and an appreciated form of community greening for East Palo Alto; access to healthy fresh fruit would be a highly valued outcome for residents. Working with the Canopy organization and taking advantage of Canopy’s strong community ties in East Palo Alto, Uriel aims to facilitate bilingual input from residents on additional ideas and improvements for the lot, such as picnic versus play areas. Partnership with Canopy will ensure community buy-in, added park amenities, and long-term maintenance.
Zoe Zelkha f12 ($1000) Constructing a permaculture garden for an Israeli/Israeli-Arab preschool — Haifa, Israel
Zoe is helping to construct an organic garden at Avital Kindergarten in Haifa, an industrial city that is the most polluted in Israel. The garden aims to teach children (and ultimately teachers and parents, as well) about gardening techniques, compost, and biodiversity. Introducing this experience at an early age has a strong impact on future choices about food and sustainable living. A secondary goal of this garden project is to create a small community that is dedicated to sustainability. Teachers, parents, and students will participate in the construction and care of this garden, and it is expected that this knowledge will be passed on to the next parents and students of Avital Preschool so that more people will be able to learn and benefit from it. Lastly, a long-term, more abstract goal is to encourage the clean up of Haifa's air pollution, which is responsible for a large percentage of health issues in the city. By allowing children to create a relationship with nature, Zoe hopes they will be able to feel connected to it and, therefore, responsible for its care and protection in the future.
Jackson Koeppel s09 ($2000) Utility Justice in Highland Park, MI
This is the second time Jackson and the organization he founded, Soulardarity, have been awarded a grant from the Garden Hill Fund. With Soulardarity, Jackson is creating a support system to strengthen use of existing legal protections against utility shutoffs in low-income households and empowering the most impacted households to advocate and organize for an affordable, reliable, healthy, community-controlled energy system. Jackson writes, "Soulardarity formed in response to the repossession of 1,000 streetlights from Highland Park, MI, leaving this community in the dark. We organized to bring community-owned solar lighting to the city. Since 2012, Soulardarity has installed six solar street lights in Highland Park and is now advocating for a city-wide solar lighting program through the Let There Be Light proposal. In 2015, we became a democratically governed membership non-profit and adopted a mission statement of building energy democracy in Highland Park and our neighboring communities through education, organizing, and developing community-owned clean energy."
Jenny Van West f84 ($5000) Portland, Maine Immigrant Musical Instrument Project
Jenny is a musician who builds community through finding, outfitting, and delivering musical instruments to immigrants in the general Portland, Maine area. She endeavors to support instrument recipients afterward with needed items, repairs, instruction, community, and occasional performance opportunities. This grant will allow Jenny to broaden, better establish, and support an existing activity. Jenny's efforts caught the attention of the Bangor Daily News last August: here's the article, including a video of Jenny telling her story.
Kristen Case s93 ($2000) The Cascade Brook Sense of Place Project
The Cascade Brook School in Farmington, Maine serves grades 3-5 in District 9, an underfunded, high-need district facing regular budget shortfalls. This project will invest in the non-fiction collection of the school library. By creating a themed collection for the library around sense of place, Kristen aims to develop and support a sense of community, a respect for nature, an understanding of the community’s history in the rural foothills of western Maine, and an awareness of the task of creating a sustainable way of life in harmony with our natural environment.
Samantha (Brynn) Kusic s95 ($3000) Pocahontas County Opera House Youth Engagement Initiative
The Pocahontas County Opera House is a unique, community-run cultural and civic center located in a remote, rural region of West Virginia. The Youth Engagement Initiative seeks to build greater youth investment in and ownership of this historic building and cultural center by hosting a series of enrichment programs geared towards participants under the age of eighteen. Samantha writes, "The Opera House is truly a beacon of light in a very rural and geographically isolated region of West Virginia. Pocahontas County faces many of the challenges which plague rural and mountain communities across America such as high unemployment, addiction, mental illness, family violence and poverty. The Opera House is a place where people come together to engage in positive, enriching community experiences which transform and inform perspectives within the community as a whole."
Sara Wasserman s97 ($8000) Establishing a network of scientific research labs
Sara is the founder of the Semel Wasserman Institute for Research Labs in Secondary Schools (SWIRLSS), which combines science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and service to a community to provide unique collaborative opportunities for inspiring and connecting young scientists, engineers and their teachers. With SWIRLSS, Sara is working to create a national network of partnerships between university research labs and independent/charter secondary schools. A university lab supports a lab set-up and the training of high school teachers and students, enabling them to run a micro-version of the university lab on the high school campus. The data collected by the high school students helps further the research aims of their university partner lab. With the Garden Hill Funding, SWIRLSS will purchase the remaining scientific equipment needed to establish a neuroscience research lab on the campus of Bright Star Secondary School in Los Angeles, CA. This will enable the students to successfully conduct research onsite at their high school.
Elizabeth Fair f89 ($7,000) Research tuberculosis stigma in Bangladesh
Elizabeth will work with tuberculosis (TB) patients and health care providers in Bangladesh to better understand the stigma that is associated with having TB, the leading cause of death among infectious diseases globally in 2015. The World Health Organization estimates that more than three million cases of TB go undetected each year. A contributing factor to under-diagnosis is social stigma related to the disease, which disproportionately affects the poorest populations. Elizabeth will collaborate with the Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee (BRAC), a development organization founded in 1972, dedicated to alleviating poverty by empowering the poor.
Joseph Schottenfeld s07 ($1,400) Creating a short documentary about migrant laborers from Tajikistan
Joseph is an ethnographer and researcher who will be working with illustrator George Butler and filmmaker Tim Brown. The goal of this documentary is to bring to life a few particular stories of migration from a part of the world that is often out of sight. “Tajikistan is considered to be the most migration-dependent country in the world,” Joseph writes. “…nearly all of Tajikistan’s migrants are men, and nearly all travel to Russia for work. But the weakening of the Russian economy and the introduction of harsh, new visa restrictions have left many of these men in precarious situations, unsure of their status in Russia or if they can even earn enough to send home.” Joseph, George, and Tim will begin in a rural village in Tajikistan, where they will “draw, film, and interview as men part from families and make the long trip—four days by train—to Moscow for work.”
Nate Sloan s03 and Gideon (Grody-Patinkin) Irving s03 ($3,000) Creating a “Gideon & Hubcap” musical touring show geared toward kids
Nate and Gideon created "The Gideon and Hubcap Show", a musical/comedy show they describe as about “friendship, technology, and being a 21st century human.” They have performed in homes across the country and at the 2015 Edinburgh Festival Fringe, in addition to appearances on BBC radio and television. Although oriented toward adults, the original show has brought a lot of joy to children, too. This welcomed side effect has “galvanized [them] to make a show expressly for kids, one that challenges and thrills them without ever speaking down to them. We want to approach them as serious audience members and put all the muscle of our craft behind creating something magical and meaningful to share with them and their families.” Nate and Gideon will develop the new piece over the next year, “including two, month-long, intensive workshops, and then begin touring it through homes in spring of 2017.” In the meantime, check out Gideon & Hubcap's website and Facebook page.
Sarah Gross s12 ($3,600) Establishing a permanent garden at Seeds of Peace camp in Maine
Sarah works at Seeds of Peace Camp in Maine, an international camp geared toward bringing together kids who come from places of conflict, often places that are in conflict with each other. Despite the camp’s agricultural name, “very few literal seeds have been planted at camp,” Sarah writes. “For the past five years, the camp has had a tiny raised bed in which we’ve planted some herbs, but I intend to use this money to build a full-fledged garden in an unused area and incorporate a gardening activity into the weekly schedule of every camper.” She also plans to establish activity plans and outfit the gardening program with tools and maintenance instructions to help keep the garden active indefinitely without too much maintenance. “I would like to see teenagers from myriad different places in the world connecting to the food system and the natural world and taking a passion for growing food back to their communities,” Sarah said.
Shannon Flaherty f99 ($5,000) Launching Goat in the Schools, a student-written children’s theater program in New Orleans
Shannon is an educator co-artistic director for Goat in the Road Productions (GRP). The program aims to improve students’ writing skills and interest in writing, as well as increase students’ creativity, confidence, and awareness of the art of theater. Shannon and Goat in the Road Productions will “choose four 10-minute plays written by young New Orleans playwrights (these plays will be generated by students of GRP’s young playwrights festival, Play/Write, in the spring of 2016)” to be put together in a “show that can easily travel, but is also vibrant and captivating.” Shannon and her co-director will also create “a 45-minute playwriting lesson, which will accompany the touring show, as well as a professional development for classroom teachers as a follow-up to the performance.” Ultimately, each student in the audience will have the chance to write his or her own original play, inspired by their peers’ work. “For many of the students in the audience, it will be their first experience watching live, professional theater,” Shannon said. Then, by “engaging with writing themselves, students will be asked to think of themselves as artists.”
Andrew Sloat f93 ($4000) Printing and distributing an educational income tax poster for migrant farmworkers in Pennsylvania
This grant will support Andrew’s work on an educational poster that helps migrant farmworkers understand how to file an income tax return. The project—a collaboration between Andrew, illustrator Michela Buttignol, the Pennsylvania Farmworker Project, and the Center for Urban Pedagogy (CUP)— helps the migrant farmworkers, who are a critical part of America’s agricultural economy, navigate the laws that affect them. Andrew states, “When farmworkers fail to file they may lose the refund payment they’re entitled to, risk having their wages seized by the IRS, or jeopardize immigration opportunities for themselves and their family members. To address this issue, we are designing a visual guide (in Spanish) that helps farmworkers across Pennsylvania (and nationwide) understand: how the tax system works, how to prepare for the tax filing process, and how to access free assistance.” The grant will allow for printing of up to 5,000 extra copies of the poster for wider distribution to migrant farmworkers in Pennsylvania. Update: Read Andrew's follow-up grant report here.
Becky Maden f93 ($2500) Hosting agriculture information workshops for a community farm Colchester, Vermont
Becky will be working with the Pine Island Community Farm in Colchester, Vermont hosting workshops on soil fertility, pest and disease management, and cover cropping for Pine Island’s seven-acre community farm. Becky explained, “The group of farmers are New Americans with over eight languages spoken and a variety of farming techniques. There is no comprehensive plan for the seven acre farm plot, nor are there any restrictions on the products the farmers can use. During the first year of production in 2015, a spectrum of synthetic fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides were applied to the community farm. Furthermore, the land is on a vulnerable flood plain along the Winooski River, just a few miles from the mouth of Lake Champlain.” Becky plans to host a series of informational workshops this winter that will help the farmers “develop a comprehensive management plan for the land, to help them source organic materials, and to understand the climate in which they now farm.”
Lara Bazelon s91 ($1500) Writing a book about restorative justice
Lara is writing a book about “the nascent movement to apply restorative justice principles to wrongful conviction cases and the movement's potentially transformative effect on the criminal justice system.” Her Garden Hill Fund grant will help support her travel and living expenses while writing the book, proposal for which is based on Lara’s recent article in Slate Magazine, “Justice After Injustice: What happens after a wrongfully convicted person is exonerated—and the witness finds out she identified the wrong man.” Lara says, “I have interviewed more than two dozen people already—crime victims, the men who were falsely convicted of those crimes, their families, the lawyers, and restorative justice practitioners. Over the next six months, I plan to interview many more in cities and rural communities across the United States. Broadly conceived, the book will closely examine three wrongful conviction cases: one in which restorative justice was not applied, one in which it was applied, and one in the very beginning of the healing process. I will tell these stories through the lived experiences of the exonerees, the original crime victims, and the concentric circles of family members, friends, lawyers, judges, prosecutors, detectives and others who were deeply affected by the false convictions. What I hope to show is that restorative justice principles, when applied with great care and thoughtfulness, can bring about personal healing and social change in ways that would have otherwise been impossible.”
Matti Sloman f01 ($6000) Developing an art and textile program for developmentally disabled artists in Chicago, Illinois
The Garden Hill Fund grant will fund the development of a six-month art and textile education program for artists with developmental disabilities. In collaboration with Envision Unlimited, a Chicago social services agency, Matti and her partner, Emily Winter, are creating textile skill-building workshops that will support Envision’s art program. Matti and Emily have also begun revitalizing an industrial weaving mill (aptly named, The Weaving Mill) at Envision’s Westtown Center. Matti says, “Our education program will bring the Envision Art Program and The Weaving Mill into close collaboration, preparing Envision clients to work more independently in the art studio or to take on paid production work with The Weaving Mill. Clients will learn how to use sewing machines, cut pattern pieces, and design, cut, and print with stencils for silkscreen. These workshops will encourage participants to be self-directed and to turn to their peers when they have questions, recognizing and utilizing the skills of others, creating a strong classroom community. By the end of the six month cycle, we will have cemented the workshop curricula, identified individual strengths of Envision clients, and laid the groundwork to start employing Envision clients at The Weaving Mill…. We want to see Westtown become a hub of creative productivity and the Garden Hill grant will allow us to jumpstart an innovative, art-based workshop program.”
Shahbaz Soofi f08 ($6000) Launching Blackseed Farmers Market in Worcester, Massachusetts This Garden Hill Fund grant will provide seed money for a new farmers’ market in Worcester, MA. Working with Muslim Community Link, “a nonprofit information and referral agency that connects the Muslim community to their community at large,” Shahbaz will help develop Blackseed Farmers Market, which will bring access to fresh organic produce and local, organic halal meat, and in particular will serve Worcester's refugee, Muslim, and elderly communities. The market, slated to open July 10, 2016, will be located at a local masjid (mosque), across the street from a senior living community and a church. Much of the produce will be supplied from a local farm run by refugees from Nepal, Iraq and multiple African states, which will in turn support their livelihoods. Shahbaz writes, “We hope that by bridging the gap between the farmers, the masjid, the refugee community, the elderly community, the church and the community at large, we will be fostering a community of empowered and educated citizens who will be able to make better decisions for their wellness and local economy.” In addition to funding from the Garden Hill Fund, the Black Seed Farmers Market is also seeking funding through an online campaign on LaunchGood.
The 2Seeds Network sends recent college graduates on a one-year agricultural development project, partnered with one of seven remote Tanzanian villages “where subsistence farming is prevalent, basic business practices are unknown, and resources are scarce.” With a GHF grant, James and the 2Seeds Network “plan to address issues that affect our entire network of projects: transportation and education for the agricultural development of our project partners.” 2Seeds Network will offset costs of transportation of goods to larger, more profitable markets “until our partners can earn enough profit to pay for transportation on their own.” In addition, the grant will allow 2Seeds “to educate all of our Partners about basic business principles.”
Kara Lynch s84 ($3700) 'SAVED’
'SAVED' is an art installation that marks the 100th anniversary of the lynching of Laura Nelson and her son, L.W. Nelson at the Old Schoolton Bridge in Oklahoma, an event for which a crowd gathered to watch and a photograph depiction remains. To commemorate the event, “we will stage soundinstallation-performanceson a series of steel bridges. Folks will gather at these bridges, and together we re-enact the photograph. A series of postcards will constitute the piece’s documentation.” In 2013, ‘SAVED’ occurred at the 145th Street Bridge in Harlem, NY, and in 2016, a second installment will take place in New Orleans. Kara states, “We created an elegy for Laura and L.W. Nelson and in remembrance and resilience, we confronted the legacy of sexual and racial violence meted out upon Black folks in the U.S.”
Lee Chilcote f90 ($3000) Cleveland literary festival
Lee plans to spearhead a new Cleveland literary festival in summer of 2015. Lee writes, “Northeast Ohio has a strong literary community, yet there is no literary arts organization that connects writers and readers and celebrates the power of writing and reading.” To meet this need, Lee is developing “A Celebration of Words, a literary ‘unconference’ in the heart of the city…a one-day event offering writing workshops, classes, talks, readings and performances.” The purpose of the event “is to foster and nourish the city’s literary community, expose youth and adults to writing and reading, and use the literary arts as a tool for social, economic and community development.”
Max Morange f97 ($800, Mini-Grant) Seed Money Project
The Seed Money Project aims to create pathways between organic farms and low-income residents of Bellingham, WA, “by contracting with new organic growers to raise staple vegetables for distribution at Bellingham Food Bank.” One in six Bellingham residents rely upon the Bellingham Food Bank to feed their families, and fresh produce is often beyond their economic reach. “At the same time, new farms face myriad technical and financial challenges in creating a diversified farm business. The Seed Money Project makes a positive impact upon both of these groups by paying new organic farmers in early season when farm coffers are low in exchange for growing staple vegetables. The Food Bank’s gleaning project volunteers harvest and transport the produce for distribution to hungry families.”
Megan Shutzer s05 ($5000) Documentary about a women’s soccer team in Zanzibar
Collaborating with another TMS alumnus, Megan will complete a documentary begun in 2013 about the sole women’s soccer team in Zanzibar, the New Generation Queens, which “captur[es] their stories, both challenges and victories.” The film is regarded as a catalyst for change for women in Zanzibar, where “most women work in the home, many cover themselves when they go outside, and few have the chance to play sports.” There is widespread belief in Zanzibar that “women’s soccer is immoral because of the clothing that one must wear (e.g. shorts) and because women might use this to attract men!” For the women on the soccer team, however, it is “exceedingly important that you can be a woman, a Muslim and a soccer player.” Megan plans to also use the grant to ensure that there is adequate outreach for the documentary in Zanzibar, including screenings in schools, theaters and at the Zanzibar International Film Festival. Update: New Generation Queens available to rent or buy on Vimeo, Amazon, and Google Play.
Sarah Gibson s04 ($500, Mini-Grant) Radio Conciencia
Sarah will document and share best practices of The Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW), an organization “that has gained national attention over the past decade for its successful campaigns to establish Fair Food Agreements with some of the country's largest retailers and fast food restaurants.” Sarah also plans to produce “a multimedia piece exploring one of CIW’s lesser-known victories: employing grassroots low-power FM radio as a way to share information, politicize farmworkers, and promote principles of equality, dignity, and social justice on a local level.” WCIW-LP Radio Conciencia is a community radio station for farmworkers in Immokalee, Florida.
Sylvia Ryerson s04 ($3500) Restorative Radio Restorative Radio is “a collaborative arts project co-created with family members of people incarcerated.” For many families with relatives in prison, it can be extremely challenging to “find the time and resources it takes to stay in touch, and yet studies across the board show that maintaining connections with the outside world is a primary factor in successful reentry upon release.” Sylvia plans to “co-produce a series of audio postcards to be broadcast over public airwaves to reach families’ incarcerated loved ones and critically engage wide audiences on the largely invisible landscape of mass incarceration in the U.S. Update: Read Sylvia's follow-up grant report here. Read more about Restorative Radio and hear audio excerpts here.
Addis Goldman s09 ($6715) Colorado Springs Food Rescue Grocery Program
Addis writes that he left TMS in spring 2009 “imbued with a Jack Kruse sentiment, ‘Do something,’” and he joined fellow Colorado College students in launching a new non-profit last fall. Their mission is to intercept perishable food that is being thrown away and sustainably transport it to charities and non-profits that serve at-risk or hungry individuals. This proposal was an overwhelming favorite among current students. Jasmine Victoria f98 ($5000) Her Birthright Jasmine is founding Her Birthright, which is dedicated to the development and support of innovative programs that prevent and treat obstetric fistula in sub-Saharan Africa. Joining forces with on-the-ground organizations, Jasmine is creating an online campaigning and fund-raising platform and finalizing the in-country partner agreements that will allow Her Birthright to help combat this devastating childbirth injury that currently affects two million women around the world.
Julie Mann Simons f84 ($3750) Stop Selling Girls Short
Julie will continue a media and advocacy program sponsored by the nonprofit she founded in 2009, Independent Girls, Inc. and its program GirlFuture. A top choice of the alumni selection committee, this social change effort will impact 9-12 year-old girls (tweens) – and, Julie hopes, “truly all girls and women”– by raising awareness of the early sexualization of tween girls by clothing companies and retailers and bring national pressure on them to expand clothing choices for tween girls. Kara Hamilton s98 ($800, Mini-Grant) Cooking and Food Education Workshops for Students
Kara will facilitate ten one-hour cooking and food education workshops for students at the Urban Assembly School for Collaborative Healthcare, a new public high school in Brooklyn, New York. Kara is the Partnership Coordinator at the school and is responsible for developing and managing the school’s enrichment program during this its inaugural year. She wants to “debunk widely-held myths and fill critical knowledge gaps related to food and nutrition.”
Meg VanDeusen f08 ($3735) Shanti Bhavan Children’s Project
Meg will bring a taste of Mountain School education to the school in India where she teaches. Shanti Bhavan has the unique mission to develop children from India’s lowest socio-economic groups into leaders of the next generation. Garden Hill funds will allow Meg and her colleagues to take two different groups of students on outdoor field trips, “to use an experiential education model to instill social and environmental ethics.” She wants children to “get their hands dirty – literally and figuratively – with education.”
Funds will be used for Global Animal Partnership (GAP) certification on three farms in Mississippi, including one Charlie has taken over from his grandfather, livestock expansion, and promotion of a local organic food system.
Dinah Shepherd s93 ($5500) First Teacher
Founded by Dinah in Roxbury, MA, funds will help create a simple, sustainable model of parent-to-parent teaching and support that will directly impact children’s literacy and school readiness.
Jackson Koeppel s09 ($5500) Soulidarity
Founded by Jackson, Soulardarity's mission is to empower the community of Highland Park, MI (Detroit) to collectively plan and own 200 solar-powered streetlights.
Josh Brown f85 ($4500) Impact Heart Health
Co-founded by Josh in New Mexico, funds will support the development of a community blood pressure monitoring system designed to identify and counsel individuals with untreated hypertension.
Tova Tenenbaum f04 ($1000) Therapeutic Mural Project Funds will be used to run a therapeutic mural project at the Montgomery County Emergency Services psychiatric hospital in PA. The goal is “to enable art, and by extension, hope, to flourish on the cold, cinder-block walls of the inpatient unit.”
Anna Leslie f01 ($3000) Ti Kay’s School Program in Haiti
Anna worked for, and now fundraises for, a program in Haiti established to address the educational barriers faced by Haitian children who are suffering from tuberculosis, or whose parents have been “derailed by the disease and unable to work or care for their families.”
Eden Trenor s99 ($2500) West Marin Talking Circles, in California
In collaboration with other trained facilitators, Eden will pilot a project to offer safe, confidential, facilitated circles to high-school age youth in West Marin County, CA “where they have permission to tell the truth about their lives and be witnessed and accepted.”
Haley (Mackrow) Sammen s02 ($3500 Sunnyside Up Farm Sustainability in urban Denver
Haley and her husband will use this grant to make improvements in their small CSA farm in the city of Denver. “We farm not only to provide people with food but also to provide passersby and the neighborhood with the reminder that food grows on plants, in soil, worked by people like themselves.”
Ian Cheney s97 ($4000) North Stars
Ian will use funds to finish his latest 30-minute documentary film, exploring the work of three individuals “working in the quiet corners of the environmental movement.” He writes, “Sharing their story will remind broad audiences that humble, patient creativity will be a crucial ingredient in building a more sustainable planet.”
Jonathan Mirin f88 ($2000) Piti Theatre Company’s project, Pioneer Valley Bee Weeks, in Massachusetts
Jon and his wife are co-founders of a theatre company operating in western Massachusetts and in Switzerland. This project will offer week-long honey-bee and pollinator related events in selected towns, calling attention to the decline of bees and the resulting effects on humans. There will be public and school performances of their acclaimed musical, “To Bee or Not to Bee.” Pat Kerdchoochuen f05 ($5000) Wholesome Wave’s Double Value Coupon Program in Connecticut
Pat is an associate in a program offered by the nonprofit Wholesome Wave that doubles the value of federal benefits such as SNAP/food stamps when they are spent at participating farmers markets. The goals are to increase the viability of small-scale farms while making fresh, locally-grown fruits and vegetables available to low-income consumers. Sam Seidel f94 ($4000) Sound Engineering Apprentice Project with at-risk youth in Rhode Island
Sam will use seed funding to launch a new project within the Performance Program of nonprofit AS220 Youth, in Rhode Island, the longest running partnership in the country between a community arts organization and a state juvenile detention center.
Sayda Morales and George Felton f09 ($1000) New club, All Students for Consent, at Whitman College in Washington
Two Mountain School classmates, now classmates at Whitman College, are creating a new club “to promote a positive consent culture” in order to stem the tide of sexual violence on campuses. The club will host educational gatherings at Whitman and plans “to distribute our method and materials to other colleges.” Thalassa Raasch f03 ($1000) Documentary book and video, The Gravedigger Hall, in Maine Thalassa is producing a book and short documentary film on the last person in Maine to spend his life digging graves by hand. Her goal to “serve the local community by preserving the story of a fading tradition, the unique history of five small Down Eastern towns, and the tale of an amazing Mainer.”