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Lacey funds to support study-semesters in Senegal, Bolivia

11.29.17
By: Mark Tarnacki
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The photos below show this year's Lacey Fellowship winners with young friends on previous international service trips: from top, Margaret de Pont in Haiti, and Amanda Dombroski in Nicaragua. Next stop for Margaret is Senegal during spring semester 2018, while Amanda is heading to Chile.

Supported by funds from the Brian Lacey ’72 International Fellowship in Social Justice, one Saint Michael’s College student will spend a semester living, learning and serving in Senegal and another in Bolivia during the coming Spring 2018 semester,

Margaret de Pont, a junior from Norton, MA, majoring in both international relations and French with a Global Studies minor, and Amanda Dombroski, a junior double-major in psychology and anthropology/sociology from White River Junction VT, will receive $2,500 apiece for intensive academic and experiential learning about cultures, language immersion and activities that promote social justice in their respective study-abroad locations.

De Pont is heading to Senegal (with excursions elsewhere in Africa) while hoping to develop her French language skills in the former French colony, while Dombroski will base her semester in Bolivia, while improving her Spanish by cultural immersion -- both through programs offered by the Brattleboro (VT) based School for International Training (SIT).

A well-traveled athlete

De Pont said she developed her interest in global cultures even before college -- since her brother is adopted from Korean, the family traveled there as well as hosting European exchange students who invited her to visit them in Germany and the Netherlands. She also joined a service-oriented trip to Haiti pre-college that sparked her interest in French. She transferred to Saint Michael’s from Penn State as a first year student, changed her major from engineering to international relations/French, and became captain of the Saint Michael’s women’s tennis team as a sophomore.Margaret and friend

The daughter of Finnian de Pont and Beverly Northam and a Saint Michael’s Dean's List student, she played three years of varsity tennis at Bishop Feehan High School in Massachusetts and was the No. 1 singles player all three seasons, a three-time Eastern Athletic Conference All-Star and three-time Sun Chronicle All-Star, as well as senior captain. Academically she was a member of Feehan National Honor Society, French Honor Society, Science Honor Society and Art Honor Society, a gold or silver key recipient in Boston Globe Scholastic Arts Competition all four years of high school, and was honored for top grade in Bishop Feehan's Visual Arts Department every year.

De Pont says news of the Lacey scholarship was “a little bit of a surprise – I’m very grateful to the committee and Brian Lacey and and very happy about it, of course – it takes a lot of pressure off.” She said after meeting with Saint Michael’s Study Abroad Director Peggy Imai, she zeroed in on the SIT program based on her interest in both French and Africa. “This fit really well with my majors” she said.

Her experience will include three homestays in both the capital city of Dakar and shorter rural stays in two regions; she also later will have an internship with a regional U.N. or unilateral body based in Senegal for peacekeeping, election-monitoring and governance missions.

She liked how classes in the program will be “field-based” -- a French class might involve going out to a market to buy ingredients in French. In her application essay, de Pont wrote: “In order to relate to and value other people we need to hone in on our commonalities by expanding our definitions of community,” and, “in order to push for a greater equality, tolerance and acceptance we must first be able to humanize the ‘other.’”

Intrigued by language, invested in justice

Amanda Dombroski’s studies in Bolivia will last from February 6 to May 21.

“All courses I will take in Bolivia are taught in Spanish (giving me credits to finish my minor), two of the courses are Anthropology courses to finish my major in that subject, and all the courses have a major focus on social change and human rights movements,” says Dombroski, adding that she also took two new “pop up classes” at Saint Michael’s first semester, "Organizing for Social Change" and "Black Lives Matter.” Also, the Bolivia program is led by a woman with a graduate degree in psychology, “so she tends to put a psychological lens on the information we go over and the things we will be doing such as tAmanda in Nicaraguahe independent research project, the homestay with Bolivian families, and the various excursions around the country we will embark on.”

At Vermont’s Hartford High School before Saint Michael’s she played lacrosse, was on the Student Council and did fundraising for student-learning and service trips, such as one to Nicaragua that she joined, inspiring her ongoing interest in Spanish and Latin American cultures and building her confidence about excelling in such experiences. It was, she said, “life-changing.” 

The SIT program, she wrote in her application essay, seemed to her “a perfect balance of class work and hands-experience: three anthropological courses, a Spanish course, an independent research project and an internship, all communicated through Spanish.” Specifically, she likes that the program “advocates for social justice,” an issue that has been important to her at Saint Michael’s: she participated in the Women’s March on Washington D.C. last January, volunteered with children of refugee families, tutored Spanish and trained with the Student Support Network, a mental health advocacy program. “To me, global citizenship means taking the time to learn about and understand cultures and customs different from one’s own while also promoting the greatest overall quality of life for all,” she wrote. She intends to apply for graduate school for clinical psychology and would hope to apply her cross-cultural perspective in her practice, she said.

“I was so honored to be selected as a Brian Lacey Scholarship recipient,” Dombroski said, explaining that it makes her coming experience “financially feasible.”

“It was an honor to be deemed worthy of a scholarship that awards students for their commitment to social change and the betterment of humanity,” she said. “I must thank Brian Lacey for his incredible kindness and generosity.”

About Lacey Fellowships

The Brian Lacey International Fellowship in Social Justice is designed to encourage and honor students who have demonstrated superior academic achievement as well as a dedication to a deeper understanding of issues and social-justice. This merit-and need-based award is intended to recognize students who show initiative, imagination and motivation to apply their academic skills to the betterment of humanity.

The fellowship is offered once each semester. They are funded through gifts from Brian Lacey ’72 -- president of Lacey Entertainment, a New York-based worldwide television marketing, production and distribution company. Lacey is also founder and director of the Kilkea Foundation, a non-profit organization that encourages and honors excellence in the humanities, arts and sciences. This benefactor also has established the Henry G. Fairbanks Endowed Chair in the Humanities at Saint Michael’s through the Kilkea Foundation.

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