Juniors win grants for travel

Aaron Lyons

Four juniors will go abroad this summer as winners of the Junior Summer Fellowship or the Gunter-Gross Asia Initiative.

As the recipient of the Junior Summer Fellowship, Mazelle Etessami ’14 will use the $3,500 grant to spend about two and a half weeks in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

“After reading about the current status of children in Haiti, after beginning to understand the horrors my fellow human beings have been, and will continue to be, subject to on a daily basis, I believe the choice [of where to visit] is obvious,” Etessami said.

She will be completely immersed in the culture, living with a local pastor and working at the orphanage and dental clinic he directs.

At the dental clinic, she will be applying fluoride to patients’ teeth, which, in a country where many don’t have access to toothpaste, can help prevent cavities and infection.  She will use any extra money in her budget to buy extra fluoride.

“There’s nothing like bringing someone out of pain,” she said. “Although I don’t have a medical degree or dental degree, being able to hold the suction or shine a light on someone, just being able to assist in any way possible to that process, that’s actual change.”

The other winner of the Junior Summer Fellowship, Shelby Heitner ’14, will travel to London to spend two weeks studying the Black Plague and its influence on society.

Heitner was first introduced to the topic in Advanced Placement Human Geography where she learned about the different stages of the disease and then studied its impact on population growth in Advanced Placement Biology.

“I’ve never been to Europe before, and I thought it would be a cool opportunity to travel and learn about a topic I’ve been studying in school,” Heitner said.

Along with working with a professor and her colleagues from the Museum of London, Heitner said she will visit exhibits and museums throughout London to “tie in different mediums of art.”  She will study how the architecture and paintings of the time period were influenced by the Black Plague.

Divya Siddarth ’14 and Sinclair Cook ’14 will receive $4,000 as recipients of the Gunter-Gross Asia Initiative grant.  Siddarth will travel to southern India to practice yoga at an institution and help research the its mental health benefits.

During her time at the institution, Siddarth will meditate and practice yoga for a combined total of about eight hours each day.

“I wanted to learn yoga in the core of where it began,” Siddarth said. “The institution takes a more holistic attitude instead of focusing more on physical than meditational [yoga].”

This trip will not be her first yoga experience. She began practicing yoga a few years ago and has found herself calmer and more centered as a result. She also recently published an article on the science behind yoga in a journal.

After participating in the SYA China summer program last year, Cook was worried he had exhausted his opportunities in China for this upcoming summer.  After hearing about the Gunter-Gross fellowship, he realized that the personalized program it entailed was perfect for him. Cook will spend about five weeks with a host family, taking the bullet train to Tianjin a few times each week to meet with a professor who Chinese teacher Binbin Wei recommended.

Cook will study the history and evolution of Chinese characters, focusing on the government’s simplification of the entire written language in the 20th century.  He hopes to “explore the cultural implications of drastically changing a language,” he said.

“I hope to improve my Chinese language skills and have countless new adventures in this ancient country,” Cook said.