Meet the 2015 Hawkinson Scholarship recipients, an impressive group of students working on issues ranging from racial justice and LGBTQ equality to college accessibility and the prevention of sex trafficking.
Awale Osman, 2015 Jacobson Scholar
Augsburg College, Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies, 2015
North Hennepin Community College, 2013
The Jacobson Scholar is the top scholarship recipient each year.
“Back in the refugee camp or in Nairobi, I could not have envisioned who I would become. I didn’t realize I’d have the power to create inclusive communities of support for people who are also marginalized and alone. In hindsight, my turbulent childhood kindled my intellectual growth while raising my level of social consciousness.”
Awale Osman was born in a Kenyan refugee camp after his family fled Somalia’s civil war of 1992. Two years later, his mother left him and his 12 siblings behind to work in the U.S. He didn’t see her for ten years. In Kenya, Awale found it painful to watch neighborhood children attend school because his family could not afford it.
Since immigrating to the United States in 2004 and reuniting with his mother, Awale has used his experience around education access to inform his volunteer work. He has been involved with the Minnesota Urban Debate League (MNUDL), Augsburg College’s Policy Debate Team, community college activism, and TRiO, which helps low-income and first-generation Americans enter college. He has also been an English tutor and a leader in the GLBTQIA community.
University of Minnesota, Bachelor of Arts in Art, expected 2016
“Though we may come from different backgrounds, hold differing perspectives, or work for independent causes, the Hawkinson Foundation is bringing us together in one space to celebrate the incredible peace and justice work being done around the Midwest. Together, I believe we can change the world.”
Alec Fischer, 21, uses film to create social change. During his senior year at Edina High School, he produced a documentary called “Minnesota Nice?” The film was heralded as a successful way to raise awareness of bullying and suicide rampant in Minnesota schools. Alec has traveled throughout the Midwest presenting his documentary to 45 schools, universities, film festivals, community events and bullying prevention rallies. The video has amassed more than 17,000 YouTube views.
Alec is also a staunch advocate for legislative changes. He successfully lobbied at the State Capitol for the Safe And Supportive Schools Act. Fischer co-founded Can’t Convert Love MN, an organization dedicated to raising awareness about the dangers of conversion therapy in MN. He co-wrote a bill to ban conversion therapy from being practiced on minors in the state, and after working with GLAAD and Change.org, he created a petition that has more than 115,000 signatures thus far supporting these efforts.
University of Minnesota, Master of Public Health – Maternal and Child Health, expected 2017
St. Olaf College, Bachelor of Arts in Public Health, 2014
“As a young girl in Senegal I accompanied my parents on various mission trips into the rural areas. There I noticed remarkable health disparities between the rural area and Dakar, the capital: children looked haggard and mothers appeared remarkably skinnier. I promised myself that I would earn a quality education and acquire the adequate skill set to return to Senegal to make a difference.”
After witnessing health and social injustices as a child in both her native Nigeria and her home in Senegal, Love Odetola, 22, became passionate about providing basic access to healthcare. In high school, she joined the Youth with a Mission socio-medical center in Dakar, Senegal. There, helped nurses give vaccines to impoverished children. Love later joined her high school medical team, working alongside health professionals to bring care to rural areas.
Love received a competitive $10,000 Davis Project for Peace grant to embark on a maternal/child health and women empowerment project in rural Senegal. As part of the project, Love partnered with the Senegalese government to provide potable water within Lambeneme village to eliminate the need for mothers and girls in the village to trek four kilometers daily to fetch clean water.
University of Minnesota,Master of Fine Arts – Creative Writing, Nonfiction, expected 2016
Vassar College, Bachelor of Arts in English, 2010
“Haunted by a photograph of my grandfather, the nuclear scientist, standing unmoved in front of a billowing orange mushroom cloud, I began to trace the intersection of family and national secrets, guilt, responsibility, and love, drawing from history, science, philosophy, poetry, memory, and imagination to shed light on questions that deepened by circles and accretion.”
Throughout her life, Emily Strasser, 27, has not only used writing as a creative outlet, but also as a way of bringing meaningful stories to the forefront. Now, in her final year of her M.F.A. at the University of Minnesota, and with the support of the her Hawkinson Foundation scholarship, she is embarking on her most personal writing assignment yet.
In honor of the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombings, Emily traveled to Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, to conduct interviews with survivors. Her family history includes a nuclear scientist grandfather who worked toward the development of atomic weapons. This research will help transform her graduate thesis into her first book, “Nuclear Family,” in which she explores the “intersection of family and national secrets, and the burden of secrecy on the home, the nation and the world.”
“Combining research, memoir, journalistic and creative elements, I attempt to access and express deep and contradictory human truths that other fields flatten or ignore. I asked when I began, and am still asking — what does peace look like in a world in which good people are complicit with injustice?”
South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, Bachelor of Science in Industrial Engineering and Engineering Management, expected 2016
“The Hawkinson Scholarship doesn’t just recognize leaders of peace and justice, but it also empowers an individual to remain true themselves and further their values and actions. Rev. Vincent Hawkinson’s courageous actions set the standard to ‘stand up and speak against oppression and injustices in all forms.’ My belief is every community needs a Rev. Vincent Hawkinson. Through this scholarship, I am empowered to fearlessly address oppression and inequality in my very own community.”
A member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, 29-year-old Vaughn J. Vargas is using his own personal experiences, deep passion for his culture and interest in community involvement to help reduce poverty in Native American communities. To accomplish that, he proposes a mix of innovative solutions that include economic development, legislative policy changes, government-to-government mediation and tribal government reformation.
Vaughn is already a strong leader, encouraging Native Americans to become more engaged within their communities to help eliminate the prejudices that lead to resentment of Natives and non-Natives. He is the Cultural Advisory Coordinator for the Rapid City Police Department and an Oceti Sakowin Community Ambassador, helping enhance relationships between Native American and non-native community members.
2015 High School Scholars
This year, the Hawkinson Foundation designated two scholarships for outstanding high school students.
George Washington University, expected 2019
Orono High School, Class of 2015
“Girls’ equality in developing countries is extremely important to me because if these areas don’t utilize the mindpower of half of their population, there is no way they will successfully integrate themselves into the global economy.”
Mallory Dudra, 19, has devoted significant time and energy to helping underrepresented populations in her home community of Medina and beyond, volunteering in India, Ecuador, and Jamaica.
A 2015 graduate of Orono High School, Mallory participated in National Honor Society, was a Minnesota State Speech Finalist and captain of her speech team, Spanish club president and leader in the Wind Ensemble. As a part of her Girl Scouts Gold Award, she tackled the problem of a lack of volunteerism among her classmates head on.
University of Minnesota, expected 2019
Harding High School (St. Paul), 2015
“Everyone may have the wand to change the world, but life is not a fairytale, so we cannot keep playing pretend and ignore the issues that hurt our society. Therefore, I decided to dedicate my life to standing up for peace and justice through education and be the magical wand that empowers individuals to move society into new realms of thought.”
Zerbine Rypa is a 2015 graduate of Harding High School in St. Paul who spent her early life in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). She and her family escaped the war in the DRC and came to St. Paul, where she joined the St. Paul Youth Commission during her sophomore year of high school. Through the Youth Commission she has worked to raise awareness about sex trafficking and work toward eliminating racism.
Her devotion to educating the world around her continued during her senior year of high school when she helped organize Project We Are Heard, a student-led movement aimed at eliminating racism.