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Two Bard Students Win 2010 Davis Projects For Peace Award

Jennifer Wai-Lan Huang
ANNANDALE-ON-HUDSON, N.Y.—Two Bard College students—Elysia Petras ’10 of Newburyport, Massachusetts, and Chelsea Whealdon ’11 of Bainbridge Island, Washington —have won a 2010 Davis Projects for Peace Award, which provides $10,000 in funding for their project “Listening, Education, and Action in Chacraseca, Nicaragua.” Their project aims to open doors to education that will lead to sustainable results by providing access to information, opportunities, and ideas. The Davis Projects for Peace program awarded students from 90 colleges and universities in the Davis United World College (UWC) Scholar Program more than $1 million collectively to undertake 100 proposed projects. The winning projects propose specific plans of action that will have lasting effects—including post-conflict community building, youth empowerment and education programs, improved community water supplies worldwide, and a multitude of agrarian enterprises in countries where famine is pervasive. Students will travel to countries in all regions of the world to work on their projects and report on their experiences once they return.

Petras and Whealdon will spend six weeks in Chacraseca this summer implementing their goals. Their three-part project includes: sustainable development of the school system (increasing access to schools for children and teachers by providing supplies, Internet access, repairs, and basic student materials); traveling to small villages in the area with Chacresecan women, students, and community leaders to promote local sharing of ideas; and laying the groundwork for a future Bard–Chacraseca tutoring and educational exchange program. As part of their Davis Peace project, Petras and Whealdon will also raise stipends for small children so that those children can attend school instead of working at a young age.

“With a population of roughly 8,600, Chacraseca is a rural and poor village in western Nicaragua that has been overwhelmed by natural disasters,” Petras and Whealdon write. “Though many are eager to learn, only one third of the youth attend school in Chacraseca. There are 13 schools, and all are in need of repairs. Many don’t even have chairs. Even though the schools are public, they receive very limited government funding, as Nicaragua is one of the poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere. Teachers work with almost nonexistent resources, and many of them are untrained volunteers from the community. Chacraseca is eager for education, but doesn’t have the resources to create an organized system. It relies on aid from the outside to make minor improvements, and we want to use this project to direct them toward self-sufficiency, rather than dependency.”

In its fourth year, Davis Projects for Peace invited students from schools participating in the UWC Scholars Program to submit plans for grassroots projects for peace, to be implemented during the summer of 2010. Philanthropist Kathryn Wasserman Davis, now 103 years old, launched the initiative on the occasion of her 100th birthday in 2007. Designed to encourage and support motivated youth to create and implement their ideas for building peace throughout the world in the 21st century, each of the winning 100 projects receives $10,000 in funding. Davis is an internationalist and philanthropist, and the mother of Shelby M. C. Davis, who funds the Davis UWC Scholars Program. “My many years have taught me that there will always be conflict,” says Kathryn Wasserman Davis. “It’s part of human nature. But love, kindness, and support are also part of human nature, and my challenge to these young people is to bring about a mindset of preparing for peace instead of preparing for war.” For further information, visit

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This event was last updated on 03-29-2010