The fellows – Isabel Almada-Sabate '21, Sebastian Hicks '21, Ricky Andrade '21, Valeria Solorzano '21, Shuli Rosenfeld '21, Emma Rosenthal '21, Brooke Scott '21, Mateo Jolivert '21, Yuhan Liu '21 and the team of Danny Amron '21 and Kiran Desai '21 – explained their forays into the study of what makes us human during the virtual assembly with short presentations. Selected for the fellowships early in 2020, they worked under the guidance of Associate Head of School John A. King, Jr. to reshape their projects after the virus struck last spring.
The fellows tackled a range of topics from activism to illness to athletics to gentrification. Many of the projects incorporated the effects of the pandemic.
The fellowships honor their namesake, the legendary Ransom Everglades teacher who spent 63 years at Ransom Everglades before his death in 2018. Jeffrey Miller '79
, who studied under Dan Leslie Bowden, created the fellowship program in June 2016 with a generous endowment gift, providing financial assistance to select juniors to pursue advanced summer studies in the humanities. Since the endowment's creation, more than 100 donors have been inspired to contribute to the fund.
Juniors interested in fellowships for next summer must apply by December 18. For more information, contact Dr. King
Here’s a look at the 2020 fellows and their projects:
Identity on a Plate
Shuli Rosenfeld ’21 facilitated “Identity on a Plate,” a five-week virtual engagement with eight Breakthrough Miami Scholars to explore their personal identities through food. Shuli engaged with her scholars through virtual discussions and various culinary adventures designed to help them reflect on their family histories and personal backgrounds. Each week, the group reviewed the histories of various cuisines and their cultural, social and personal impact. Shuli instructed on culturally significant dishes and challenged the scholars with “mystery bag ingredients” to create new dishes. Through the experience, she said, she learned about “the power of food in overcoming boundaries and bringing people with all different histories and backgrounds together.” She is compiling a cookbook of the scholars’ recipes.
Beyond the Field: How COVID-19 Altered South Florida High School Athletics
Danny Amron ’21 & Kiran Desai ’21 sought to study community through the street basketball leagues in New York City, but they pivoted to something closer to home after the pandemic hit. They interviewed and filmed student-athletes and coaches from various high schools across South Florida, trying to determine the impact of the lost spring and summer on student-athletes' opportunities, social connections and emotional, financial and mental health. Danny and Kiran found the toll was significant; they are working on a documentary that they will eventually share with the RE community.
Through the Lens of a Pandemic: Activism in 2020
Emma Rosenthal ’21 had planned to investigate the influence that Gen-Z has on current social issues, photographing teen activists, attending the March for Science in Washington, D.C., and meeting with students from Parkland. COVID-19 inspired a slightly new concept: documenting activism during the pandemic. To help with her work, Emma took an online Boston University photojournalism course during the summer. Through the lens of her camera, Emma focused on how, during a pandemic, inaction can be activism, and she also looked at individual mobilization and national activism. She is creating a photobook documenting her summer journey. “Photographing people and their responses to the pandemic have taught me how humanity constantly aspires to unite and come together, adapting to new obstacles in times like these,” she said.
Nowhere to Hide: Surviving Hurricane Dorian
Sebastian Hicks ’21 intended to take an exploratory trip to the Bahamas to interview and photograph individuals who survived Hurricane Dorian, documenting the current state of the Bahamas and giving survivors a face in our community. However, COVID-19 stopped all travel to the islands. In October, Sebastian finally had the chance to go to Cat Cay, Bahamas, to meet Bahamians who moved from their homes in Abaco and Grand Bahamas. He decided to shift the project to a documentary so he could better tell the stories of those he interviewed. He has been editing his documentary, which he hopes will capture the severe hardship and loss as well as inspiring courage, resilience and bravery.
Faith, Hope, and Meaning: Finding Shared Humanity in the Migrant Journey
Isabel Almada-Sabaté ’21 set out to explore the depths of our shared humanity through the plight of migrant communities, and to discover the unifying and integrative role that faith and religion have at each step of the migrant journey. Because of travel restrictions, she canceled a trip to Mexico City, where she had scheduled in-person visits at universities, aid organizations and shelters, and began working virtually, reaching out to a broad range of universities, demographers and researchers. As she interviewed members of migrant communities, she gained a new perspective on religious institutions – how they offered support through concrete deeds along with the comfort of real faith. She also discovered that, despite their differences, “each person shared a desire to connect and belong.” Inspired by this work, she plans to shift her attention to human rights advocacy for migrants.
A Conscious Life
Mateo Jolivert ’21 intended to interview patients diagnosed with terminal illness in hospice and palliative care; however, when COVID-19 hit, in-person visits became impossible. Mateo decided to expand the scope of the project to the entire hospice care community, reaching out to hospice care providers and managers of VITAS Healthcare to better understand what their field of work means to them. Mateo recorded the conversations and supplemented them with photography to lend more clarity into the depth of this work. His hope is to share how some patients, as frail as they are, have powerfully transformed their approach to the world around them. “Through their perseverance in the face of the end of their own lives, they have taught me that humanity can mean the simple pursuit of happiness in the present,” Mateo said.
Stories of Empathy: Impact of COVID-19 in Mexico
Valeria Solorzano ’21 had planned to partner with an organization that works to build houses and schools for free in San Miguel Xoltepec, an impoverished area in rural Mexico City, with the goal of growing to understand the humanity behind these projects. When the pandemic shut down the construction projects, Valeria decided to analyze the impact of COVID-19 on different parts of Mexico. She spoke with nurses at the Hospital ABC de Observatorio, which has handled many coronavirus cases. During the course of her interviews, she realized the common thread was empathy, the idea of putting others before ourselves. “My fellowship project has since changed from exploring the humanity in physically building community, to exploring the human quality of empathy in individual relationships,” she said. She is assembling a collection of stories that will share hope at a time of uncertainty.
Miami’s Manifest Destiny
Brooke Scott ’21 is working on a documentary about the effects of gentrification on West Coconut Grove after a summer researching the history of the Grove and learning about the effects of segregation, integration and black suburbanization. Delayed by the pandemic, she began filming interviews of West Grove residents in August, exploring the detrimental effects redevelopment has had on local children, businesses and the sense of community that once characterized this section of the Grove. Her interviews highlighted certain themes: a loss of culture and community values. They also revealed how much of our understanding of what it means to be human is tied to our heritage and the community with which we surround ourselves. “The citizens of the West Grove aren’t just worried about the economic effects of gentrification, but also feel that parts of their identities are being stripped away as a result of the changes occurring,” Brooke said.
Surrealism as a Medium of Storytelling
Yuhan Liu ’21 virtually attended the School of the Art Institute of Chicago’s six-week Early College Program Summer Institute. In addition to creating art, she conducted research and listened to lectures about movements in art history. During lectures, she often heard her lecturer refer to the conversations that works of art encourage. Art begins or continues a conversation with its viewer, historical context, or even another piece. In critiques, her lecturer placed students' work into movements throughout art history, naming artists with similar styles and discussing details of their work. Yuhan devoted special attention to the surrealist movement, which is characterized by art that unites the natural and dream world. Inspired by what she learned, Yuhan created her own eccentric but detailed narratives, conveying her own emotions while pulling inspiration from historical work. Her own story became a continuation of the larger movement. “I learned that art is a medium for continuing the human narrative,” she said. “To be human is to bring my own artistic vision while building on the foundation of those before me.”
The Humanity in Healing
Ricardo Andrade ’21 sought out both doctors and families who have had to deal with craniosynostosis, a condition that affects infants and which afflicted him in his youth. It prevents the skull from growing as it should, and the resulting pressure can lead to dangerous conditions. Despite the constraints of the pandemic, Ricardo found families who had received cranial vault remodeling and the more modern endoscopic craniectomy, and listened to their tales, observing their grief, inner strength and love for their children. The surgeons, who he had expected to be less emotional, shared their own stories of growth and acceptance as they battled the disease, as well as sharing insights about why they chose to work in a field of innovative medicine. His interviews showcased the bravery of parents facing frightening and little-known medical problems in their newborns, and the determination of medical pioneers working to change the lives of others for the better. “The strength and love of these families and surgeons are what teaches us how to be human,” Ricardo said.