Seniors to present work during annual Capstone Presentation Day
On Wednesday afternoons, Brittany Brathwaite, a senior in Syracuse University’s College of Arts and Sciences, heads to SU’s Warehouse in downtown Syracuse to meet with “her girls,” teenagers from across the city whose lives are in turmoil and for whom violence is no stranger. It’s called “The Personal is Political Youth Project,” a pilot program that became the outreach component of Brathwaite’s Capstone Project for the Renée Crown University Honors Program.
Brathwaite is among more than 100 seniors who will present their work during the annual Capstone Presentation Day from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Wednesday, May 2, in the Tolley Humanities Center. The presentations will run concurrently in seven rooms, except during lunch (noon-1 p.m.), and are free and open to the University community.
Capstone projects are the culmination of two years of independent research and creative work by students from across the University. This year, students are presenting on topics ranging from human trafficking, child soldiers, censorship, dirty wars and late night television to synthesizing molecules and nanogel.
The process of creating a Capstone project can be life changing. Brathwaite’s “The Personal is Political Youth Project” is designed to empower girls to make positive changes in their lives through consciousness-raising group discussions and activities. The project grew out of her interests in grass-roots advocacy and public health. A women and gender studies major and pre-med student, Brathwaite plans to pursue a master’s degree in public health before applying to medical school. The idea for the weekly group developed from two daylong workshops for adolescent girls on gender, racial equity and sexual and reproductive health that Brathwaite helped to organize during her sophomore and junior years.
“I planned a syllabus for ‘The Personal is Political Project’ that was unlike anything the girls had experienced,” Brathwaite says, “but I quickly learned I needed, first, to meet them where they really are in their lives.”
The result has been an unforgettable experience for Brathwaite, the student facilitators who help her and the teens, as they shared their stories over the past year and used skits, songs and dance to talk about race, class, identity, sexuality, power and violence. Her efforts earned Brathwaite an individual Chancellor’s Citation during the 2012 Chancellor’s Award for Public Engagement and Scholarship (CAPES) ceremony in March.
“This is more than a Capstone Project for me,” says Brathwaite, who is trying to find a way to sustain the program after she graduates. “The group evolved in ways that I could not have imagined. These girls let me know what they needed and we worked it out together. They taught me.”