On Nov. 16, Wheelock College hosted its annual Passion for Action Leadership Award Dinner. The event benefits Wheelock’s Passion for Action Scholarship program for students committed to service and the scholarship program awards $20,000 for four years. Since 2007, three to five students of each incoming first-year class are designated Passion for Action Scholars. The program provides leadership development, calls for a domestic service project and offers an international service opportunity. Students have worked in Ghana, Benin, Puerto Rico, and Guatemala.
“Service is a part of our culture, curriculum, college ethos,” said Jackie Jenkins-Scott, president of Wheelock College. “At Wheelock, its core to who we are…as an institution.”
Lyonel Traversiere, 21, is one of the Passion for Action scholars.
He grew up in Mattapan, where he was raised by his grandmother. Traversiere had been active in community service since his high school days at the Academy of the Pacific Rim. There, he was involved with the Black History Month committee, after-school peer mentoring, and he played soccer and basketball. He also took part in the Summer Search program, which takes participants on trips across the country where they do service projects and develop leadership skills, ending up on a trip to flood-stricken Mississippi to help provide humanitarian
“I wasn’t fully prepared for the commitment, it was a lot of work,” said Traversiere. “The experience I had built up my character.”
Traversiere heard about the Wheelock service scholarship from his college counselor.
“She thought Wheelock might be a good fit for me… and I heard about the scholarship program, I thought it could open the right doors,” said Traversiere. “I felt that I could make my mom proud as well.”
He also cites his older brother, who works for the MBTA, as a major influence in his life. “It’s difficult to be an African-American man of Caribbean descent, who knows where we come from, to not work hard and take advantage of opportunities. He paved a path for me and I know it was hard. He paid his dues so now I have to pay mine.”
Traversiere credits his family for keeping him connected with his roots.
“Growing up, we spoke Haitian Creole and English. I would listen to the stories of when my grandmother was young in Haiti. I feel like my relatives were my only real connection to Haiti.”
When the earthquake struck, Traversiere said there was silence in the halls of his school.
“Many of the students in the school are of Caribbean descent and many of them were Haitian.”He said he wanted to do something and he helped organize a medical drive. He worked with his cousin, a state police officer in Providence, Rhode Island, to help get donated items to Haiti.
“Even though I couldn’t go, I felt like I could send a piece of me there. We didn’t know where our relatives were at first. We took a leap of faith and sent down items like medical supplies, canned food, toiletries, and clothes.”
Traversiere hasn’t been to Haiti since, but hopes he might be able to through the international service trip with Passion for Action. There is a possibility the program might go to Haiti in the coming years.
“We are working out details to get a group of students down to Haiti, where they’ll most likely work in Jacmel and Port-au-Prince,” said Jenkins-Scott. “In Jacmel, we’re working in partnership with Mass Bay Community College, they chose to support a school there. In Port-au-Prince, we would work with the public hospital’s pediatric wing to see if there’s a way to create a space for families.”
The keynote speaker for the awards dinner was Karen Keating Ansara, a philanthropist who has actively supported work in Haiti since 2008. Ansara is the co-founder and a main funder of The Haiti Fund at The Boston Foundation, which was established after the earthquake.
“We are very excited to have Karen Ansara because she is dedicated to service,” said Jenkins-Scott. “She represents the kind of commitment to service that we think is an inspiration and role model for our students.”
Jenkins-Scott hopes that the program will continue and develop and become a signature program.
“We look forward to this being an important part of the Wheelock,” said Jenkins Scott. “And that some of these students
will come back after they’ve graduated and made great contributions to the world to share their experiences... And students like Lyonel embody what the program is all about. We’re very lucky to have a young man who’s passionate about his commitment