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For immediate release: Mar. 18, 2002

Contact: Jennifer Greenstein Altmann, 609-258-2982 or jlg@princeton.edu
 

Students receive first ReachOut 56 Fellowships

PRINCETON, N.J. -- Two Princeton seniors have been awarded inaugural fellowships by the class of 1956 that will fund their participation in programs working to improve our comprehension of the events of Sept. 11 and help heal the wounds created on that day.

The ReachOut '56 Fellowship program awarded its first grants to Lindsay Campbell and Aili McConnon. Each will receive $25,000 to pay their expenses while they devote next year to working for public interest organizations. The program requires applicants to find an organization that agrees in advance to make a position available.

"The idea is that the students work for an organization that wouldn't be able to afford them otherwise," said James Freund '56, who had the idea for the fellowships. "The Princeton student has to find the organization, find the need and write a proposal. To me it's a very good way of our money doing some good through the efforts of an energetic young person."

More than 100 members of the class of 1956 donated to the program, which will provide from one to three fellowships to Princeton students each year.

The Living Memorials Initiative

Campbell will put her interests in urban planning and environmental studies to use by working with the Living Memorials Initiative, which is constructing green spaces around New York City to remember the victims of Sept. 11. She is a Woodrow Wilson School major who is earning a certificate in environmental studies.

"I'm interested in using green space to revitalize communities," said Campbell, who is from Shaker Heights, Ohio. Parks and tree plantings improve quality of life by offering a place to gather, enhancing neighborhood identity and boosting real estate values, she said. In this case, the green spaces also will give residents a place to pay their respects to the victims of the collapse of the World Trade Center. Campbell pointed out in her application that plantings played a role in commemorating a previous tragedy, the Oklahoma City bombings. Seeds from a tree that survived the bombing were planted at locations around the country, including the White House.

Campbell will coordinate applications for grants, work with communities on finding locations for green spaces and build a Web site, something she has not done before. Working on the memorials is a way for Campbell, who has lived in New York City for the last two summers, to contribute to the process of recovering from Sept. 11. "This project presents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me to be a part of healing," she wrote in her fellowship proposal.

The project is aimed at developing spaces for memorials outside of lower Manhattan, recognizing that those in other boroughs need a place to commemorate the victims. Campbell anticipates that the fellowship will help her decide whether she wants to attend law school or graduate school for urban planning.

The fellowship made a position available for Campbell that she probably would not have been able to get otherwise, given the limited budgets of most public interest organizations. Campbell had contacted the Living Memorials Initiative last year about applying for a job; the organization wasn't sure it could hire her. Once she learned about the fellowship, she asked if the group would be interested in her working there for free. "They were much more receptive," she said.

The Legacy Project

McConnon will spend next year working on The Legacy Project, an undertaking started in New York in 2000 that collects artistic and literary works which address the experiences of war, ethnic conflict, genocide and other tragedies around the world.

The events of Sept. 11 intensified the project's mission, which is to make connections among tragic historical events, revealing the similarities and differences in the ways that cultures around the world cope with these traumas.

McConnon, an English major, will assemble a literary anthology to accompany the 500 artworks that already exist on the project's Web site. "My job will involve collecting, editing and linking together the literary aftermath to disasters, and exploring how and why the pieces reflect one another," she said.

In addition to being available on the Web, the anthology will be published as a book for use in high school and college classrooms.

The project is an excellent match with McConnon's interests, she said. Her independent work in the English department has focused on examining literary responses to the Holocaust, and her junior seminar looked at how American writing was transformed by World War I and World War II. She plans to attend graduate school in English literature after the fellowship.

McConnon, who is from Brampton, Ontario, was struck by the role that literature played in coping with the Sept. 11 tragedy when she read about impromptu memorials that were created in New York soon after the event. "The memorials often centered around bits of literature or poems dealing with other events, such as Auden's 'September 1, 1939' poem," she said. "Obviously people found resonance with (writing from other tragedies) and often added their own writing."

Freund said the project seemed ideal for McConnon because she will be interacting with prominent writers as she assembles the anthology, doing some writing herself and, best of all, helping to create a finished product.

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