Welles Grant Recipients Present Project Ideas

This past Tuesday, January 12, Lawrenceville announced this year’s recipients of the Welles Award.

This past Tuesday, January 12, Lawrenceville announced this year’s recipients of the Welles Award. Established in memory of William Bouton Welles ’71, the award provides funding for an III or IV Form student to pursue one of their academic interests over the following summer. This year’s recipients include IV Formers Arnav Aggarwal, Kyle Baek, Ashley Cohen, Jai Dalamal, Jess Fernandez, Karolina Majewska, Summer Qureshi, Layla Shaffer, Hawkins Sutter, Tesia Thomas, and Richard Zhou, along with III Formers Sally Lee, George McCain, Kyle Park, Christabelle Sutter, and Daniel Zhu.

Aggarwal first thought of his project idea in sixth grade, which is “to create a smart pillbox that will help people remember to take their medications.” His inspiration for this project comes from his grandmother, who often forgets to take her medication on time.

Growing up in California, Baek “knew a lot of immigrants [who] worked very hard to establish themselves in [his] community.” By making a podcast highlighting their stories, he plans to “bring into light immigrant entrepreneurship and how it plays a vital role in making California an economic hub.”

Majewska will similarly be creating her own podcast, “The Eye Opener,” hoping to inspire families that “don’t know boarding [schools] [exist] or don’t think they could fit in or afford this type of education” to consider boarding school as an option for their children.

Aside from podcasts, Cohen, who runs an organization called Helping the Hunger Virtually, plans to use the Welles Grant to “compile a short film of the effects of Covid-19 on food insecurity in San Diego [and to] put hunger on politicians’ radars.” She believes that “one of the best ways we can root out hunger from our communities is through governmental change, so [she] will be making the film and sending it to government officials...to hopefully drive systematic change in [her] community.”

Dalamal will be looking at the fashion industry and the steps it has taken to become more sustainable, focusing on the environmental impact of various clothing materials. He plans to research and compare the economic differences of using materials that are sustainable and unsustainable to determine how they affect production costs and profitability.

Within the field of education in both New Jersey and beyond, many awardees plan to pursue projects that will help enhance the educational experiences of minority groups. Inspired by her introduction to biculturalism during her Fall Term Muralistas of Mexico final project, Fernandez will be using her grant to make a documentary that will “focus on the experiences of bicultural students on campus and more on their relationship with their identity and culture.”

Qureshi, on the other hand, hopes to use writing as a means to document the voices and stories of Syrian refugee children. She decided to use her Welles Award to make a “two-week workshop [and] to build a platform for these kids to share their experiences.”

Drawing from his own experiences with hearing loss as a child, Zhu wants to raise awareness for public school elementary students with hearing loss through “researching and surveying the special education system.” He plans to interview speech and hearing therapists and to connect with families who have had similar experiences.

The Sutters also hope to improve the learning skills of children, only through puzzles. They will be creating a puzzle exchange in the Princeton-Trenton area, as they found that doing puzzles “improves short term memory, problem-solving skills, short term memory, and visual-spatial awareness, especially in young children.”

Zhou plans to create study materials for students who are a part of the New Jersey Seeds program to help them adjust to private high schools from public school or middle school in general. “With the pandemic, everything is going to be a lot harder...That transition from a public, low-income middle school to a private high school is a big environment change, so I want to make sure that it is an easy transition,” he said.

For her project, Thomas plans to use the Welles Grant and the Mindstorm EV3 kit to pursue a project that will allow students in Tanzania with limited exposure to Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education to have a starting point in engineering mechanisms.

Lee will be coding an online game designed to help younger students learn Harkness skills. On receiving the award, she said, “I’m very grateful for the acknowledgement and support that I got for promoting my project, especially due to [my] being able to complete a project that can really benefit the community using my passions.”

Other Lawrentians hope to use the grant to address social issues specific to their own communities. Growing up in New York City, Shaffer noticed that “the Hudson River was one of the few parts of the city unaffected by construction.” By talking to various nonprofits around the city, she will examine the effects of New York City’s plastic bag ban on levels of microplastics in the Hudson’s waters.

Park will be using his grant to travel to the island of Jeju in South Korea, where he will be interviewing Haenyeos, a group of adept female divers, and specifically look at their impact on the island’s “transition from a patriarchy to a semi-matriarchy.”

On the other side of the world, McCain plans to dive deeper within American politics and investigate the stock returns of different senators, as he believes that senators have an obvious advantage in the market over the general population. He plans to interview senators “who have played substantial roles inside this issue and senators...who have been accused of insider trading.”

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