After reviewing numerous outstanding community service proposals, we are delighted to present to you the following 2014 Harvardwood Heroes. Each grant recipient will receive $500 to use at his/her discretion.
We would like to thank all of the applicants who submitted proposals for consideration. It was truly inspiring to read about the amazing service work that Harvard students and alums are performing across the globe!
Without further ado, we present to you the 2014 Harvardwood Heroes.
Mike Philson '08 is a music artist & producer, writer, actor & filmmaker, business executive, consultant, and social/community activist from Plainfield, New Jersey. As CEO & Founder of MMP Guided Entertainment, Mike's communicative art embodies the struggles, hopes, and dreams that persist in all of us. Philson strives to highlight entertaining stories of enlightenment, perseverance, and faith, and he has a diverse set of experiences ranging from Investment Banking & Consulting, to running a global urbanwear fashion line, and educational mentoring & community leadership. In 2013, he developed the #Jerseygrown Community Foundation and partnered with the Newark Yoga Movement. The Newark Yoga Movement, a 501c3, was started in 2009 as a way to use yoga to help Newark children reach their fullest potential both academically and personally. After reading articles about the severely low graduation rates, Founder Debby Kaminsky knew that yoga could absolutely provide a solution for positive change. By sharing life tools of yoga with children, they learn how to reduce stress and anxiety, increase focus and confidence as well as gaining physical benefits of strength, balance and improved flexibility. Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) and/or making sure students are college or career ready are big in the education world. Newark Yoga Movement provides a solution to help in this important area by further cultivating student’s social and emotional development (as early as important pre-k years). We also believe that we must be sure to connect with all who positively impact children (pre-k through 12th grade), hence community, educators, and public safety officials. Longer term, we really can shift cultures of communities.
We are Suvai Gunasekaran, Yacoub Kureh, and Danni Xie, graduates of Harvard College and co-founders of Ceramics United. On a visit to South Africa last summer, we were immediately impressed with the beauty that pervaded the city - the vibrant culture of art and design was unmistakable. However, as excited as we were by the art, we also witnessed a massive socioeconomic disparity, particularly in the realm of educational opportunities for underprivileged youth. Our communal passion for the arts combined with our ardent belief in education as one of the greatest equalizers compelled us to take action. Ceramics United is a social enterprise to promote arts education for youth and to give South African art a spotlight on the world's stage. Just this month, we wrapped up our first annual international surface design competition, recognizing the exceptional work of students, artists, and designers from all around the world, with a special focus on Cape Town.
Studies have shown that arts education is closely linked to academic achievement, social and emotional development, as well as civic engagement in children. In addition to the competition, we connected nonprofits with local artists to organize design workshops for students. Forty percent of our submissions this year were comprised of student entries, and we hope to increase this number next year by scaling our impact to reach more students throughout South Africa. Through our competition, we hope to make arts education a more permanent fixture in the academic curriculum, and we are excited to receive the support of Harvardwood in making this a reality.
Osh Ghanimah is an actor and the Founder & CEO of Broadway For All—a NYC-based non-profit born out of his fellowship through the Office of the President at Harvard University. Broadway For All is a summer conservatory led entirely by Broadway and TV/Film professionals; it trains talented students from varying socio-economic statuses and ethnic backgrounds to become the next generation of diverse performers and writers for the American stage and screen. Before acting and Broadway For All, Osh was a Teach For America (TFA) New York City corps member teaching in Washington Heights, Harlem, and the South Bronx. He has also served as Artistic Director, English & Arts Department Chair, and School Leadership Chair for various schools and trained new TFA corps members. Oshs holds a B.A. in Theatre and English and a B.S. in Secondary Education from Loyola University Chicago and an MFA in Acting from the American Repertory Theater at Harvard University. Recently he was a guest lecturer of acting at Harvard’s Office of the Arts. Osh has appeared onstage in Hansel & Gretel (American Repertory Theater) and internationally in The Imaginary Invalid and The Proposal (Moscow Art Theater). TV appearances include: The Blacklist, Deadbeat, and Law & Order: SVU. Next February, Osh will present a talk at the 2015 TEDxBroadway Conference in NYC. Through Broadway For All, Osh aims to create opportunities for young artists so that one day, the American stage and screen will truly reflect the America in which we live. broadwayforall.org to learn more.
Kaitlin McGaw is the founder, producer and lead singer for Alphabet Rockers, a unique hip hop musical program for young children based in the Bay Area. Alphabet Rockers "makes learning come alive through through the beats, rhymes and movement of hip-hop" and builds community through the celebration of individual expression. Since graduating from Harvard in '00 in Afro-American Studies, Kaitlin has dedicated her career to this program, designing high-quality music/dance learning experiences for children 3-7 years old. Her efforts have produced three award-winning albums, engaging school assemblies on bullying prevention and nutrition, music and movement based Common Core curriculum, and an engaging iPhone app for the Alphabet Rockers learning platform. Kaitlin has been commissioned to write songs for kids for fitness and wellness programs, and was recognized by the John Lennon Songwriting Contest as a finalist for the song, “Dynamite.” Kaitlin is a teaching artist who serves over 600 students a year in the greater Bay Area, focusing on preschool (2-4), TK-2nd grades. Currently Kaitlin is producing a web series for Alphabet Rockers, to be released in early 2015. With the support of Harvardwood Heroes, she will create a series of arts workshops for families to accompany the release of each of the web series episodes in the Bay Area. Prior to Alphabet Rockers, Kaitlin worked for The Recording Academy, Blue Bear School of Music, served as Vice President for West Coast Songwriters, and was a featured writer for Electronic Musician.