Kirsten Mandala, Political Science, Class of 2011

Mandala is currently working as an intern with the Quaker United Nations, a non-profit that supports peace and dialogue at the United Nations. During her time at Reed, Kirsten Mandala served as a SEEDS Orientation Odyssey leader, a SEEDS intern and received, in partnership with fellow student Skye McDonald, a grant for $10,000 from the Davis Projects for Peace Initiative to teach peaceful conflict resolution to traumatized orphans and to establish a community lending library in the Rwandan capital of Kigali. It is estimated that over one million orphans live in Rwanda due to the combined effects of HIV/AIDS and genocide. The goal of their project was to promote understanding and tolerance in youth who have been burdened by the loss of a parent and who live in a region with a powerful history of ethnic hatred. By instilling cooperative skills in the children, and helping to construct a library, they worked to build a sense of hope for a better future. Since that summer, Mandala has been back to work on the lending library and continues her connection with the region. She welcomes contact from any Reedie interested in interning in the area.

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Erin Wilkus, Biology, Class of 2010

In 2010, Wilkus was awarded $10,000 to build and maintain a language resource center in partnership with Tshulu Trust in a Venda community of South Africa.  Rosetta Stone was installed on the computers along with other multi-media learning materials. Wilkus hoped to provide the Venda community of HaMakuya with the tools needed to learn English, a skill that would open doors to education, employment, and socioeconomic mobility.

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Nick Pittman, Economics, Class of 2013

Pittman is the administrative intern at SEEDS. He also teaches Reed’s P.E. class “Cycling to Service,” which, in collaboration with the sports center, involves a weekly 16 mile round-trip bike ride to the Community Cycling Center on N.E. Alberta St. to help out with volunteer nights. About the work he does with SEEDS, Pittman says, “SEEDS is a great way to balance out my academics, as it helps keep me connected both with my fellow Reedies in a non-academic setting but also with the greater PDX community.”

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Lillian Karabaic, Economics, Class of 2013

In the summer of 2011, Karabaic received the Ducey Internship Program award to intern with Willamette Pedestrian Coalition, an organization dedicated to promoting walking by creating safe pedestrian environments throughout Portland. Karabaic now works for various organizations including: p:ear, Independent Publishing Resource Center, Bicycle Transportation Alliance, and Shift to Bikes. She has also completed two AmeriCorps terms.

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Jenny Leonard, Biology, Class of 2009

After graduation, Leonard started a Portland chapter of Bicycles for Humanity, which raises, funds and collects unwanted bicycles to send to partners in developing countries. These bicycles empower disadvantaged people through improved access to food and water, employment, healthcare, education and social opportunities. Leonard attributes her ability to tackle this project to Reed’s education model, which inspired her to think out of the box.

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Julie Kern Smith, Assistant Director of Career Services

Kern Smith is a founding board member for Ko-Falen Cultural Center with her artist husband, Arvie Smith, and as the long-imagined project of close friend and Malian artist, Baba Wagué Diakité and his artist wife Ronna Neuenschwander. In Bambara (the prevalent language of Mali) the word ko-falen means “gift exchange.” In accordance with its name, Ko-Falen organizes biannual, four-week music, dance, art, and textile workshops in Mali, and in turn, every single penny of the proceeds goes directly to youth enrichment and women’s empowerment efforts in Malian communities.

The youth enrichment program provides for twenty students, first through eight grade, to attend daily 3 hour tutoring sessions at the Ko-Falen center, which is located in a small neighborhood on the edge of Bamako. This additional instruction and encouragement has resulted in impressive results in student performance in the public school classroom of 100 + students. Last year’s reports showed perfect attendance and top class ranking for these Ko-Falen students.

Kern Smith explains that the goal is not only to provide this handful of students more opportunities but to create a lasting model of education that can be adopted in various communities – and in fact, last year, due to the success and resonance of the program, several families in the neighborhood pooled together their own money in order for eight additional area children to be able to receive tutoring at Ko-Falen’s center.

Ko-Falen also funds a female empowerment group that spreads education about anti-circumcision, has improved and expanded a village school in Soni Tiene, and recently established a micro-lending program. Kern Smith has traveled to Mali six times in the last fifteen years and has seen the tangible effects of Ko-Falen’s efforts. “To be able to have a personal impact on people living halfway around the world is humbling.”

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Mary Emily O’Hara, Art History, Class of 2012

O’Hara is a non-traditional student whose pre-Reed activities included working as a journalist and union organizer as well as helping found Spread Magazine, a magazine about the sex industry that engages sex workers to write from their own experience. Her other sex work-related projects have included founding the Philadelphia Sex Workers Project in 2001, and working as an assistant to Priscilla Alexander, editor of seminal anthology Sex Work, at New York City HIV prevention non-profit FROST’D (From Our Streets With Dignity). She also organized chapters of the young feminist performance collective Radical Cheerleaders, which were featured as one of Ms. Magazine’s 2001 “Women of the Year,” and co-produced a short documentary titled “Cheer Up! Don’t Let the System Get You Down,” which has played at over 200 film festivals since its release in 2004. And she did most of these things using the secret identity/wacky pen name “Mary Christmas.”

O’Hara has also interned as a Youth Program Coordinator with Q Center, Portland’s LGBTQ community center, for the past two years. At Q Center, she has worked on outreach and support projects including partnerships with community organizations like Big Brothers Big Sisters and businesses like Nike, built an extensive database of resources for LGBTQ youth, networked with area GSA’s/Gay-Straight Alliances at schools, and assisted with Q Center’s 2012 merge with the Sexual Minority Youth Resource Center (SMYRC).(See LGBTQ Issues section for more information about O’Hara’s work.)

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Lauren Banister, Linguistics, Class of 2010

Banister is the Volunteer Supervisor at CoachArt, which provides free lessons in the arts and athletics to children with chronic and life-threatening illnesses and to their siblings. “I’m passionate about making art and creative expression accessible to everyone, and I’ve been able to leverage my personal networks in this endeavor as well and reach out to a myriad of others who help make this program possible,” she says.

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Jeff Wright, Development Officer

Wright has served as a board member of Oregon Health & Science University‘s Neuropsychiatric Institute, Pacific Northwest College of Art Alumni & Friends, the Hollywood Farmer’s Market and Live Wire! Radio.  He particularly enjoyed his involvement with Live Wire!, which came from years of working in radio and public broadcasting.  “Every time I came home from a Live Wire! meeting, I felt happy I lived in Portland,” said Jeff.  “We created a ridiculously wonderful product that is as good as can be found anywhere, but that could only happen in the Rose City.”

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Sunny Daly, History, Class of 2003

Daly is Senior Manager of Foundation Relations at the Ms. Foundation for Women, an organization that hopes to build women’s collective power. Daly is also a board member of the New York Abortion Access Fund, which helps poor and low-income women find resources to help them get an abortion.  “I believe that knowledge, comfort and choice in sexuality and reproductive health are fundamental to what a person is able to do and be,” she says.

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