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Harpur Fellows 2014

The 2014 Harpur Fellows

What is the fellowship?

The program — made possible by the support of Harpur College alumni and donors — is designed to give talented, highly motivated, imaginative undergraduates the opportunity to pursue a self-designed project that will serve the community and contribute to their intellectual and personal growth. The fellowship provides support that will enable recipients to pursue a passionate interest in a manner not possible through a regular academic program.

Those selected will receive up to $4,000 to pursue their project and give a public presentation on their accomplishments when they return to campus at the conclusion of the fellowship.

By Katie Kravat and Kathryn Shafsky

This year, the Harpur Fellows program gave five students the opportunity to pursue a self-designed project. The program was established to encourage motivated and talented students to help serve a community — local, national or international. At the end of the fellowship, students are asked to give a public presentation to show what they accomplished during their time as Harpur Fellows.

Jessica and Kaitlin BiagiottiJessica and Kaitlin Biagiotti

2014 Years & Majors: Junior/integrative neuroscience and music performance and sophomore/ biology and music

Hometown: St. James, N.Y.

Project: Mission Melody

Sisters Jessica and Kaitlin Biagiotti grew up making music together.

"Music is one thing we have in common," says Jessica, a double major in neuroscience and music performance. "Together we've done music our entire lives."

Now, with their project "Mission Melody," the Biagiottis have brought their love for music to students and children in Cusco, Peru.

"We knew it was something that we had a passion for and we knew it could be helpful in so many regards," says Kaitlin, a double major in biology and music, "so we thought why not try to give this to other students or other children."

Over the course of three weeks, Jessica and Kaitlin taught music lessons to students, along with providing them with instruments and music books. The pair worked with two local organizations, Corazon de Dahlia and AbrePuertas, and prepared the children for a concert.

"It's kind of neat, since it's our project and it's going to continue once we're gone," Kaitlin says. "So we're still going to have a piece of us there."

Both sisters said they are excited that the Harpur Fellows program has given them the opportunity to pursue their passion outside of Binghamton University.

"This is something we wouldn't really have been able to do otherwise," Jessica says. "It gives us the chance to bring our passions to another community and make an impact."

Uloaku IreajaUloaku Ireaja

2014 Year & Major: Senior/integrative neuroscience

Hometown: Bronx, N.Y.

Project: Bringing Light Back Home

For Uloaku Ireaja, the Harpur Fellows program is personal.

Ireaja traveled over the summer to her mother's village in Umuahia, Nigeria, to work in a local clinic.

"[My family] says I'm the first person who has come back and done something for the village," says Ireaja, who is majoring in integrative neuroscience. "It's not a city, it's not a town, it's just a village."

Ireaja brought a large generator, along with other medical supplies, to the clinic. Since power outages are common in Nigeria, the generator will help the clinic serve more people without the fear of losing power.

"This clinic is new and they don't really have supplies like this," Ireaja says, "so right now they're only a daytime clinic because they can't power themselves at night."

Not only did Ireaja provide the clinic with supplies, but she also shadowed the doctors during a blood pressure clinic. For many of the patients, it was the first time they ever had their blood pressure taken.

"I hope to just gain a different perspective on health," says Ireaja, "because I do want to study global health and eventually move back to Nigeria and do healthcare."

Ireaja is enthusiastic about the opportunity that the Harpur Fellows program has given her.

"The fact that [Harpur] is willing to fund you [is great]," she says. "Funding is one hindrance that you have, and if you can get everything together and present a good solid project, they are willing to help bring your ideas to life."

Melinda MomplaisirMelinda Momplaisir

2014 Year & Majors: Senior/history and comparative literature

Hometown: Brooklyn, N.Y.

Project: Socio-Economic Disadvantaged High School Students in Brooklyn

Melinda Momplaisir attended summer school — not as a student, but as a teacher.

Momplaisir, a double major in history and comparative literature, received the opportunity to give back to her community by teaching young-adult students in summer workshops.

"I wanted to cry [when I got the scholarship] because I'm proud and I'm really happy that I can benefit my community," she says.

Momplaisir conducted workshops twice a week for students in the Brooklyn High School for Leadership and Community Service, a transfer high school for "over-age, under-credited youth" who are given the opportunity to finish high school.

"I was interested in this [school] because a lot of my peers don't go away to four-year schools and I know that like them, many people felt like they couldn't do it because of the education system they're in," Momplaisir says. "They have so much untapped potential."

With her workshops, Momplaisir focused on providing knowledge about colleges and career options, taking students on school visits and preparing them for the SATs.

"My purpose is to show them that there are opportunities out there for them at four-year universities," she says.

To motivate the students, Momplaisir worked to improve their self-esteem. This part of her project was particularly geared toward women.

"On campus, I'm part of a women's empowerment organization called PULSE (Powerful United Ladies Striving to Elevate)," says Momplaisir. "Through PULSE, I've learned that self-esteem is a critical part of helping people to know that they deserve more."

Momplaisir says she's also applied what she's learned from the Educational Opportunity Program (EOP).

"EOP has shaped me as a person," she says. "We have great counselors who encourage us to be better and like the counselors are for me, I want to be someone for these kids."

As a Harpur Fellow, Momplaisir will have the chance to be that person — and she wouldn't have it any other way.

"I can't see myself doing anything else — I like being busy. It's been really rewarding and I've learned from everything that I've done," she says.

Saruta Siriwatanakul (Pictured Above)

2014 Year & Majors: Senior/English and political science

Hometown: Elmhurst, N.Y.

Project: Enriching the Education of the Hill Tribe Village in Thailand Beyond the Classroom

Thanks to the Harpur Fellows program, Saruta Siriwatanakul spent her summer in Thailand, where her grandmother raised her until she was 9 years old.

"I picked Thailand because I grew up with the Thai culture and both my parents are Thai, so that was the ideal place to be," Siriwatanakul says.

Siriwatanakul worked with children ages 7–9 who attend school in the Hill Tribe Village, helping them to enjoy after-school arts activities.

"I was drawn to this location because it's one of the most challenging as it's very remote," she says. "I felt like I would have the most impact in this community."

Siriwatanakul helped the children by working with the Travel to Teach organization, which assisted her in introducing the school's 700 students to the arts.

"The activities, which are after school, will be concentrated in the arts because that'll allow the students to be creative in ways where they might be restricted," Siriwatanakul says.

A double major in English and political science, Siriwatanakul sought to combine what she has learned at Binghamton University with the art projects she teaches the students.

"I want to incorporate what I've learned from the Harpur classes I've taken, like playwriting and journalism," she says. "I want to channel what I've learned, metaphorically connecting Binghamton with the organization."

To do this, she thought of comic strips.

"I was inspired by the Magic Paintbrush in Binghamton, an organization that helps children by giving them a therapeutic art session," she says. "I volunteer there now and they do mini-comic strips that allow students to be creative in terms of creating storylines, drawings and stuff like that."

While helping the students to craft their own stories, Siriwatanakul also started a new chapter for herself.

"I wanted to do something that would change my life, and (Harpur) has given me the opportunity to do that. So far, it's been a very rewarding experience," she says. "I would definitely encourage anyone to do it because you just never know."

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Last Updated: 3/1/17