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Lawson Receives Compton Mentor Fellowship

Stella Lawson, a December 2003 Berea College graduate, was awarded a Compton Mentor Fellowship to spend a year in San Francisco working with young community leaders to create a healthy sustainable food store and a community kitchen.

Stella Lawson

Lawson, from Cincinnati, Ohio, dual majored in women’s studies and agriculture and natural resources. She is one of the five college graduates to receive the 2005 Mentor Fellowship, which will provide $35,000 to support her project titled Creating Sustainable Food Security for Environmental Justice: Youth Empowerment in Bayview Hunters Point. Founded in 1973 by Randolph and Dorothy Compton, the Compton Foundation supports selected college graduates who partner with a mentor to apply their academic learning to improve policies and programs related to peace, population , sustainable development and/or the environment .

Beginning in June, Lawson will be working with mentor Dana Lanza, M.D., founder and Executive Director of the non-profit organization, Literacy for Environmental Justice. Together they will work with the youth of the Bayview Hunters Point area to lay a foundation for a healthier, sustainable food world in an urban setting. “A sustainable healthy food store run by local young people is important in a community where there is illness caused or exacerbated by a polluted environment,” said Lawson.

Lawson also wants to create a community kitchen, and a sustainable foods curriculum based on what she and her mentor do throughout the year, so that in the future young people will be exposed to all the potential career options and leadership opportunities available to them in the sustainable foods world.

While at Berea, Lawson worked with both the Helping the Earth And Learning (HEAL) and the Sustainability and Environmental Studies (SENS) programs. She also coordinated Earth Month activities, worked on campaigns to get renewable energy on campus, and helped create an all female, sustainable foods specialty house on campus called, Vida Nueva.

After the fellowship, Lawson plans to go back to school to earn a Ph.D., and then return to her home to continue her involvement in promoting sustainable and just change in the world. “I hope to be able to bring back what I’ve learned about creating sustainable and socially just models of living to Kentucky and Cincinnati, where I call home,” said Lawson.

Berea College was among several U.S. colleges and universities invited by the Compton Foundation to nominate students for the Fellowships. The foundation chose these institutions based on their innovative programs and geographic and demographic diversity. The recipients of the other four fellowships where graduates from Clark University, Morehouse College, Vassar College, and Oberlin College.

For more than half a century, the Randolph and Dorothy Danforth Compton family has been committed to individuals and organizations that combine research and activism to effect positive change in a troubled world. The Compton Foundation provides funding to projects that address issues of environmental degradation, rapid population growth, or the fragility of peace and human rights. The Mentor Fellowship Program, launched in 2000, is the newest of the Compton Foundation’s fellowship programs.

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