Senior Logan Phillips calls Black History Month “a time for blissful remembrance and celebration.” But is that all there is?
“Black History Month needs to go beyond those 28 days because people were Black before those days started and they will be Black beyond those days,” said Phillips, who is set to graduate with a dual degree in African and African-American studies and sociology from Arts & Sciences.
Phillips wants better.
“Narratives for Black history are often narrow, focusing only on enslavement or popular activists like Rosa Parks,” Phillips said.The first-year seminar, “Self and Identity in African-American Literature,” opened Phillips’ eyes to gaps in K-12 education. The seminar discussed figures like Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr. and programs like the Federal Housing Administration.“I recalled learning about some of these topics, but here we looked at them from a different lens, one that centered the Black experience and struggle,” Phillips said. “I realized I had only been told part of the story.”
Today, Phillips is working to create a new story. As an intern at the National Black Child Development Institute, Phillips found culturally relevant books for its “Love To Read” program and supported its mission to expand early childhood education for Black children. As a City Faces mentor, Phillips introduced her teenaged mentee to the Griot Museum of Black History. And as a Learning Lodge tutor to a first-grader, Phillips uses books with characters of color, including those that reflect her student’s own heritage.
Phillips reflects on these experiences, shares resources and amplifies the work of Black educators and community leaders on her site blkgirleduvist.com, which she developed as a Mary and Tom Stillman Civic Scholar with the Gephardt Institute.
“I believe that education is something that extends beyond the physical walls of a K-12 classroom,” writes Phillips, who plans to earn a PhD in African and African-American studies. “Ensuring that this awareness is amplified across different groups, identities and backgrounds in an effort to advance a collective mindset that centers coalition and solidarity is critical.”
— Diane Toroian Keaggy
Underclassmen may remember Green Ambassadors leader Alexis Tinoco from their first days on campus. He was standing between them and Bear’s Den trash cans, tossing their to-go boxes into the compost and their chip bags into the trash.
“We showed them what goes where and how they can be part of sustainability efforts on campus,” said Tinoco, who expects to graduate in May with a degree in environmental biology from Arts & Sciences. “People want to do the right thing, but it takes education and
Since his arrival on campus, Tinoco has worked to reduce waste on campus. He introduced dorm-room composting to the South 40 and successfully lobbied the Office of Residential Life to fund the program. Since 2018, the program has diverted 40,430 pounds of compostable waste.
Tinoco also helped run the Office of Sustainability Greenware program, which provides reusable dishware for student events and faculty meetings. And as president of the Student Environmental Council, he advocated for changes to the Eco2Go program, which provides reusable to-go boxes at campus dining halls. The boxes can be used 1,000 times but often end up in the trash.
“We researched similar programs and recommended Dining Services add labels and consider implementing a token system next year,” Tinoco said. “Now the program is in a position to be the strongest it has ever been.”
By encouraging students to reduce trash on campus, Tinoco is helping to preserve biodiversity across the globe.
“Everything is connected,” said Tinoco, who wants to pursue a career in community-based conservation management. “We see waste as a local issue, but in reality, its impact reaches far beyond the local landfill. From the people paid low wages to sort our plastic to the natural ecosystems disrupted by pollution, trash has a major effect on people and the planet.”
— Diane Toroian Keaggy
It started back in middle school, when Jessika Baral got glasses and her dad was struggling with his cataracts.
“He suggested that we do eye exercises together,” Baral recalled. “Middle-school Jessika was not down for that.”
So she engineered a sort of sombrero festooned with LED lights. By following the blinking lights, users could strengthen their eye muscles. The results were so impressive, Baral was invited to the White House Science Fair, where she met her hero, Bill Nye.
Fast forward to today. Baral is set to earn her undergraduate degree in biology from Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis. She has conducted cancer research at Stanford and Washington universities; co-authored papers in leading journals; founded dance education nonprofit Our Chance to Dance; and won the Barry Goldwater Scholarship and the Churchill Scholarship, which provides a free graduate education at the University of Cambridge, where Baral will study computational biology.
“Computer science is going to be a huge part of the future of medicine,” said Baral, who most recently used computational biology in the Ding lab at the School of Medicine to determine which protein complex formations can lead to cancer. “By integrating the computational and the experimental, we can ask new questions and really accelerate discovery.”
Baral ultimately wants to go to medical school to train to be a pediatric oncologist. She also wants to be a mentor to female scientists — much as Li Ding at the School of Medicine has been to her. To that end, Baral helped launch WashU Women in STEM, which provides a community, professional development and outreach programs.
“I don’t know where I would be without all of the amazing mentors in my life,” Baral said. “I just want to pay that forward.”
— Diane Toroian Keaggy
Senior Keishi Foecke’s studies in global health took her to Uganda, where she researched school absenteeism among menstruating girls and documented the nation’s burgeoning #MeToo movement.
And to her hometown of San Francisco, where she helped unhoused families during the pandemic.
And down the street to The SPOT, the School of Medicine’s youth clinic, where Foecke marketed free services to low-income and LGBT teens.
“Global health is not just about injustices that occur in faraway places,” said Foecke, who is set to graduate with a degree in anthropology from Arts & Sciences. “There are incredible inequities in our backyards, too.”
Foecke credits her mentors in the student group GlobeMed for her expansive view of global health justice. The group has a long-running partnership with Uganda Development and Health Associates, which provides reproductive and child health services and runs the menstrual dignity program program that Foecke studied. GlobeMed members also are active locally, building new relationships with St. Louis nonprofits and advocating for social and health justice reforms.
“In classes, we talk a lot about ethics, cultural sensitivity and sustainable partnerships, but GlobeMed gave me a chance to see those values in action,” said Foecke, a Gephardt Institute Fox-Clark Civic Scholar. “It’s about listening to and centering the voices of the community.”
Foecke is a 3-2 student at the Brown School and will earn her master’s in public health next year. She currently is a research assistant on a Centers for Disease Control tobacco control project and will work this summer at the CDC’s Public Health Law Program. Ultimately, she may develop public health policy in Washington, D.C., conduct research at a university or work at a nonprofit here or abroad.
“No matter what you do or where you go, understanding public health and health disparities is central to solving the big problems,” Foecke said.
— Diane Toroian Keaggy
These stories originally appeared in The Source.