Photo courtesy of "Destiny Man" magazine


Ryan Deuel

What does it mean to be at home? Or to find a home? Or perhaps, to have a home find us? Can a home be created, shared, disrupted, lost, restored, temporary or permanent, singular or plural? Can you take your home with you?

Leaving home to attend college is a rite of passage. Once here, St. lawrence becomes home to a new coterie of students every August, year after year. However, inevitably, graduates will leave their Laurentian home and begin to redefine home again, returning, reshaping, finding or being found at home.

Here are just a few stories of Laurentians' journey home.

The Art of Home

Tandazani Dhlakama '11

If there’s one thing Tandazani Dhlakama ’11 hasn’t done since leaving her temporary home in Canton, New York, it’s stand still. 

After graduating from St. Lawrence in 2011 with her degree in fine arts and government, she returned to her Zimbabwean home in Harare and began working at the National Gallery of Zimbabwe. By 2013, she was named the gallery’s curator for education, which included oversight of all public programming. One of the first shows she curated was titled “Tavatose-Sisonke,” which means “We are now together,” and featured local schools and colleges, something that was usually reserved for private schools in Harare.

“We felt that this was in many ways excluding children from lower-income communities, from participating in school exhibitions,” she said. “This exhibition was important because it brought together rural, urban, lower income, private and government schools through art.”

In 2014, Dhlakama co-curated two shows at the National Gallery of Zimbabwe. The first was titled “Zimbabwe In Design,” where Zimbabwean designers showcased their work and celebrated various forms of locally inspired design. The second, “Woman at the Top,” was part of the European Union’s “EU Promotes Women’s Excellence” campaign, which addressed the gender inequity of recognition and celebrated 50 female artists to encourage local women artists in their careers.

“These shows were important,” she said, “because they created conversations around gender, representation, institutional responsibility, documenting Afrocentric design, collaboration and knowledge dissemination.” 

The show earned her and her co-curator a National Arts Merit Award nomination.

In 2015, she completed her master’s degree in art gallery and museum studies from the University of Leeds, an accomplishment made possible thanks to the Beit Trust, which offered her a full scholarship in the United Kingdom.

This past spring, she was one of only two candidates selected to complete a curatorial training program with the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa in Cape Town, South Africa. And in June, she became a member of the global Independent Curators International (ICI) Network, after attending the Curatorial Intensive in Dakar, Senegal. Headquartered in New York City, ICI is a hub that connects emerging and established curators, artists and art spaces, to forge international networks and generate new forms of collaborations. 

While St. Lawrence provided a strong foundation for her career in art, returning to her home country of Zimbabwe gave Dhlakama the opportunity to support art where art has either not been widely supported or has been dominated by a Euro-centric perspective.

“Every time someone curates an exhibition, or opens up an art space, they fill a gap that enhances the local art scene,” she said. “That’s why I feel so committed to adding value to the Southern African art world.”

An Education at Home

Brijlal Chaudhari ’10

It was after traveling to Nepal during the winter break in 2007-08 that Brijlal Chaudhari ’10 and Martin Papp ’08 decided to do something really big. What they did would have a huge impact on hundreds of school-aged children in Chaudhari’s home country of Nepal and build a lasting connection with their Laurentian home.

“After visiting my village, we realized how lucky we were,” Chaudhari wrote in an email from Nepal. “We also realized that education is what can break all the socio-economic barriers.”

When they returned to St. Lawrence for the spring semester, the two then-students founded a new student group, Literacy for Nepal (LFN), with the intent of doing two specific things: build a library at an underfunded government school in Nichuta, Chaudhari’s village, and sponsor graduates of the school to further fund their education.

In his last year at St. Lawrence, Chaudhari submitted a Davis Projects for Peace proposal and received a $10,000 award to start a new high school in the village of Pakaha. With support from LFN fundraisers, he was also able to fund a library, which Chaudhari said, “has all the books they need for their courses.” To date, more than 300 students have graduated from the school. 

[Liqian Ma ’16 of Changsha, China, and Malakia Takane ’18 of Maseru, Lesotho, were both recipients of Davis Projects for Peace grants. See more on page 9.]

Since then, more than 100 St. Lawrence students and alumni have been members of Literacy for Nepal. They have volunteered, led fundraisers and traveled to Nepal to meet the students and to see first-hand the results of their efforts in Chaudhari’s home country.

And the connection between St. Lawrence and Nepal continues. Following the devastating earthquake in 2015, St. Lawrence students, with assistance from Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Music David Henderson, held two benefit concerts to help rebuild schools and libraries damaged by the quake. 

The fundraisers drew support from a number of St. Lawrence students, faculty and staff, as well as alumni Lee ’74 and Linda Pollock ’75. 

After graduating from St. Lawrence, Lee Pollock had gone into the Peace Corps and made Nepal his home for three years teaching math and science. He then spent the next 34 years waiting patiently to return.

In 2011, Lee and Linda finally did. And, they did it again in 2015, visiting the Village of Tuhure Pasal and the Chandrawati School, where Lee first taught in the Peace Corps in the mid-70s. In the four years between their visits, the Pollocks helped raise enough to build a meeting hall and a classroom building for the school. 

“The school hosted a parade for us with flowers and music and dancing,” Linda said. “It was overwhelming.”

But, their 2015 trip happened to come right before an earthquake decimated the country. 

“The devastation was horrible,” Linda said. “So many places that we had just been, were catastrophically affected.” So, the Laurentian couple quickly raised about $6,000 and wired the funds to their Nepali friends, who used the money to buy rice, tarps and tents for the families who had lost everything. 

The earthquake also forced Literacy for Nepal students to cancel their trip in 2015. “It made no sense to send students there at that time,” Henderson said. “So we held the fundraiser instead.”

This past summer, LFN students did return. Derrick Robinson ’18, Liam Donnelly ’18, George Knudsvig ’18, and Josiah Henderson ’18, traveled there in June to continue the SLU-Nepal connection and the group’s efforts by visiting the school libraries that they’ve supported with books, magazines and sports items.

Chaudhari currently serves as a fellow at the Jeanne Sauvé Foundation in Montréal. But his work with his Nepal and St. Lawrence homes is far from complete. 

“We’re going to continue to raise the number of scholars each year,” he said. “And LFN will continue fundraising so St. Lawrence students can go to Nepal to see the projects and meet the scholars.” And perhaps, find themselves at home in Nepal.

The Border Between Home and Away

Jordan Pescrillo '12

After graduating from St. Lawrence with a degree in global studies and an education studies minor, Jordan Pescrillo ’12 found work in a coffee shop but struggled to find a job or a paid internship dedicated to social work and education in her hometown of Buffalo, New York. 

“Options are not always waiting for you back home after you graduate,” she said. 

In order to start paying back some of her student loans, Pescrillo joined AmeriCorps Builds Lives through Education (ABLE), working for a year as a tutor serving K-12 students in Buffalo, and a second year with Opportunity Corps, providing financial-literacy education to refugees from Myanmar (Burma), who were making a new home in Western New York. She also taught adult ESL classes and assisted in a third-grade classroom.

She later learned from her former advisor, Professor of Global Studies John Collins, about a new 10-month post-baccalaureate fellowship funded by St. Lawrence Trustee Sarah Johnson ’82 at the Minmahaw School in Thailand for Burmese refugees.

“I was encouraged to apply so I could learn what many of my students and clients’ backgrounds were like in Thailand,” she said. “My main goal is to learn skills from the community on the Thai-Burma border and use them in Buffalo or another ‘refugee city’ to provide more opportunities for young adults interested in furthering their education.”

At the Minmahaw School in Mae Sot, Thailand, she taught English, social studies, teacher education and pop culture and showed English-language movies on the weekends. During the summer, she coordinated a program for 80 students and taught subjects such as critical thinking, drama and other topics. 

Pescrillo was supposed to return home to Buffalo in June 2015. Instead, she further settled into her new home in Thailand and became the community development instructor at the Wide Horizons Community Development Program, a two-year leadership and capacity building program for Burmese migrants and refugees, also located in Mae Sot, where many Minmahaw students also go to further their education.

Today, Pescrillo serves on a board with the Minmahaw School, advising staff about the program’s future and continuing to coordinate the summer school program. It also gives her the chance to mentor St. Lawrence fellows before they arrive. 

Sarah Johnson ’82 has continued to solely fund the 10-month fellowship to the Minmahaw school. This year, recent graduate and government major Luize Eihmane ’16 was selected to start the fellowship in August 2016. And when the selected 2015 fellow fell ill and wasn’t able to travel, Johnson converted the fellowship into two summer teaching internships for 2016, giving Sean Morrissey ’16 and Alita Rogers ’17 the chance to travel there and work with Pescrillo the summer.

For Pescrillo, the experience of both serving with Americorps and working in Thailand has enabled her to learn more than any graduate school experience would have taught her.

“I have learned more about my Buffalo community while living abroad than I ever could have staying at home,” she said. “I now understand the festivals where they throw water in the street near my home, the complexities within the community, their ethnic backgrounds, or why they are afraid of American police. I have learned beyond what I think a master’s degree could ever teach me.”

Planting Seeds of Change at Home

Łukasz Niparko ’13

When Łukasz Niparko ’13 was wrapping up his Senior Year Experience, he met with his faculty advisor Elun Gabriel, associate professor of history, and the two discussed how he might one day put his research into action.

“I titled the project ‘Atlantis’ because I was searching for a city that had disappeared,” he said. “Researching the Jewish past of Poznań and looking for its relics in the urban landscape was like looking for the lost Atlantis.”

Two years after graduating with a global studies major, Niparko saw his research come to fruition. With support from Humanity in Action, Niparko organized a multi-day program for school-age youths during the summer of 2015 on the Jewish past and heritage of Poznań, his home city in Poland.

Known as the Anne Frank Project, his summer school program was aimed at combating antisemitism while also building tolerance toward all minorities. For two weeks, Niparko led the high school students through centuries of history about the Jews in Poznań, a city that once housed one of the largest Jewish populations in Europe. 

After German persecution and nearly five decades of Soviet communism, most of the Jewish cultural legacy remains hidden. 

“Hole. Vast hole. Emptiness,” one student, Krzysztof, wrote reflectively to Niparko. 

“I am very glad I could speak up in the project on many topics that are important, and that I could do that without fear of being criticized,” wrote Hanna, another one of Niparko’s students.

Niparko’s project help to plant a seed of change for the students in his home. “The harvest,” he said, “is happening in their families, schools and neighborhoods.”

Since then, two more projects have sprouted in Poznań, one discussing gender equality and another on preventing discrimination against asylum seekers, both of which are run by alumni of his Anne Frank Project.

“I am proud to be on the boards of the two, assisting these projects,” he said. “Next summer, if funding allows, I hope to welcome a new group of students to the next edition of the Anne Frank Project.”

Derrick Robinson '18 of Cuba, NY, Liam Donnelly '18 of Shelburne, VT, George Knudsvig '18 of Rye, NY, and Josiah Henderson '18 of Brunswick, ME visited the school library in Nepal in June 2016 (Photo courtesy of Josiah Henderson)
Jordan Pescrillo '12 (seated third from right) with the graduating class at the Wide Horizons Community Development Center. (Photo courtesy of Jordan Pescrillo)
Photo courtesy of Lukasz Niparko