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Samantha Wilson Wins Strauss Scholarship


UCR Junior Wins Strauss Scholarship

The $10,000 award to Samantha Wilson will support a nine-month service project for former child laborers in India.

(May 22, 2008)

Samantha WilsonEnlarge

Samantha Wilson

RIVERSIDE, Calif. — Samantha Wilson, a junior at the University of California, Riverside, has been awarded a $10,000 Donald A. Strauss Public Service Foundation Scholarship to carry out an independent service project in India during her senior year.

Wilson, who is from Moreno Valley in southern California, is an honor student and a global studies major.

The scholarship will enable her to do leadership training and community development work with schoolchildren in India who were child laborers. This is a collaborative, nine-month project developed by Wilson and an Indian micro finance institution, Activists for Social Alternatives (ASA), that begins in June 2008.

A team of ASA staff and UCR students led by Wilson will host a one-week leadership program for 25 ASA youth in Tiruchirapalli, Tamil Nadu. This will culminate in December with a second trip to India by Wilson’s UCR team and an all-expenses-paid trip for the Indian students to visit a local university.

The goal of the project is to help the Indian students develop their leadership abilities, to address local community issues through community organizing, and to expose the students and their parents to opportunities for higher education, Wilson said.

Inland Communities Fellowship of Reconciliation, a local peace organization, has agreed to help Wilson raise $2,000 to create an interest-generating scholarship that will provide future tuition funds for participating ASA students in India.

“This project is pretty reflective of what I’d like to do with my life,” Wilson said. “I want to be a part of making concrete change for people across the globe in ways that are collaborative and meaningful. I’d like to see development projects create space for international relationships of mutuality and respect that honor the inherent worth and dignity of all the people involved. Service work, if done with a spirit of humility and mutual learning, can be really powerful to developing international relationships and creating global citizenship. These kinds of projects are the first step.”

Wilson’s project was represented at the March 2008 inaugural meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative University (CGIU) conference in New Orleans where it was described as one of the “most dynamic” projects presented. The CGIU is a new project of the Clinton Global Initiative and is designed to challenge college students and universities to tackle global problems with practical, innovative solutions. Former President Clinton established the CGI in 2005.

Wilson is one of UCR’s most distinguished juniors with a long list of accomplishments as a campus leader, said Alicia Chavez, UCR scholarship coordinator.

“She has excelled in all aspects of university life, and her Strauss project is a prime example of how her scholarly interests and her commitment to service have developed in tandem, each enhancing the other,” Chavez said.

Wilson said she hopes other students will join her in organizing and executing the project.

“It is my priority that this project address the needs and dreams vocalized by the community, not those needs and dreams assumed by me to be important to this community,” she said. “Therefore, the project will need to be flexible enough to adapt to what arises: before, during, and after we get there!”

The Donald A. Strauss Public Service Scholarship Foundation, established as a memorial to the late Don Strauss of Newport Beach, awards $10,000 scholarships to at least 14 California college juniors annually. The scholarships fund public-service projects that students have proposed and will carry out during their senior year.

Donald Strauss served 10 years on the Newport-Mesa Unified School District Board and 12 years on the Newport Beach City Council, including one as mayor. He died in 1995 at the age of 79.

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