The Atkinson Opportunity Grant
All Atkinson Scholarship recipients are eligible to apply for an Atkinson Opportunity Grant, a one-time award designed to allow students to pursue a unique experience or opportunity.
Students have used the special funding to undertake a variety of travel, classes and community service projects that enable them to grow and expand their horizons. The results are often life-changing as the reports that follow demonstrate.
In 2017, students used the grants to study dance in Italy, join a shark conservation expedition in Belize, volunteer in Peru and work in a mobile medical clinic in Nicaragua.
Scott Henderson: Nicaragua – “Nothing short of spectacular”
Atkinson Scholarship recipient Scott Henderson, a junior majoring in Psychology at Boston College, used his Opportunity Grant to participate in a seven-day trip to Nicaragua in January 2018 with Global Medical Brigades, a student-led, non-profit organization whose mission is to empower communities in developing countries with sustainable solutions to improve quality of life and environment.
Scott, along with a brigade of BC students provided free health care to community members who often walked miles to receive treatment at the free clinic.
Every day was different for Scott as he rotated through various positions including intake, triage, pharmacy, dentistry, data informatics, and spending time with the children that visited, which he absolutely enjoyed. Triage and intake involved engaging with the patients, discussing their symptoms and illnesses, and taking their blood pressure. “I especially loved these stations as they incorporated my use of the Spanish language, while providing direct medical services to individuals in a way I never had before.” Scott also worked alongside a local pharmacist and physician where he learned about their medical practices and discovered how the health care system in Nicaragua differed from health care in the U.S.
“I was fortunate to be able to visit the homes of some patients who were unable to walk to receive help, which was very challenging, sad, and inspiring to witness. We played soccer, cards, hide and seek. On the last day of our brigade, we helped out with a project to bring water to a village via a piping system, which involved a lot of manual labor and trenches. Although challenging, we all enjoyed it and made an impact in the grand scheme of the project.”
“All and all, it was a fantastic experience. I feel incredibly lucky to have been afforded the opportunity to engage with so many great individuals I met while in Nicaragua. It further augmented my desire to pursue a career in medicine. I hope to return to Nicaragua this January.”
Posted July 2018
Nathan Galloway: Yestermorrow
Nathan Galloway was an interdisciplinary studies major while at UMASS Amherst, but as graduation approached, he was antsy to do something less esoteric. He took an interest in sustainable design and green building and wanted to learn more about it. He used his Atkinson Opportunity Grant to gain hands-on training at Yestermorrow, a unique nonprofit in Waitsfield, VT that teaches design, construction woodworking and architectural craft.
He joined a class of 20 other students of all ages who, like him, dreamed of some day designing their own home. The class project was a mock up house structure where students tinkered with a variety of power tools to cut and mill lumber, and assemble the frame of a house. The process was a lot more challenging than he anticipated. “Growing up, I never had the experience of building things, but I enjoyed learning these practical skills.”
Posted December 2016
Rusulenni Castro: Exploring Cuba
Atkinson Scholarship recipient Rusulenni Castro, a junior at Bentley University majoring in corporate finance and accounting, used her Opportunity Grant to join her peers in the history class Cuba: Past, Present and Future on a nine day trip there in March.
Drawing on her Latin roots, Rusulenni has a personal interest in Latin America and has taken a related class each semester at Bentley. The trip included lectures, museum excursions and a visit to a sugar plantation in the countryside. She was taken aback by the differences of communist culture where many basic necessities – like health care and housing – are free but an educated person earns just $30 a month. The lectures gave her pause. “It was very interesting,” she says, “to learn about what we had learned back at Bentley but from the Cuban perspective.”
Posted on April 5, 2012
Adam Raphael: Eyes Wide Open in Ghana
Atkinson Scholarship recipient Adam Raphael, a junior at the University of New Hampshire, used his Atkinson Opportunity Grant to participate in the IFRE Volunteers Abroad Program in Ghana in July 2011. A trained EMT, Adam worked on the medical/healthcare project team, assisting the local nurses at the District Hospital with all aspects of clinical nursing.
Adam was kind enough to share an excerpt from his journal with us. It’s quite compelling.
The past 12 hours of my life today have been a real turning point. It made me be thankful for everything I have ever had. It made me feel sympathetic, compassionate, and most of all love.
Today I was able to assist in three childbirths. I was able to hold new life in my hands and watch as new eyes looked back at me. The turning point for me, or rather revelation was as beautiful as life can be, it can also be horrible and unforgiving. While the first two births were successful, the third was not. This mother had spent a long time in labor without any modern drugs or medicine to help her along the way. This clinic I am working at does not have doctors, or even practitioners at the ready. They do not have modern equipment you might find on even the simplest ambulance in the western world. They have nothing. Nothing. The only thing attached to this woman was an I/V that was giving her minor nutrients and contraction medication. Twice she tried pulling it out. For the midwifes at the clinic, this was just a normal day at the “office.” For me, never even witnessing childbirth, this was hardly normal.
This woman would get up, try walking around, and the midwives would yell at her to sit back down. She was praying, screaming, snapping her fingers… I can’t even imagine what this must have felt like. About an hour into labor her mother came in and started talking to her in her native language, telling her to calm herself, be a woman… be strong.
Finally we started to see the mother crown. She wasn’t pushing enough. We saw kicking, moving of her abdomen indicating life, but she was not pushing. She tried to tell us the baby didn’t want to come out but we could see its head.
Then what surprised me the most was in this crowning stage, beginning her second stage of labor, actual birth, she closed her legs and stood from the table. She began hollering and yelling moaning.
With sweat dripping down all of our faces, it was time for a second try. This time one of the midwives went right in and began pulling the baby. There was no other option. After about two minutes, a baby boy entered this earth. He was not crying, not breathing. In this dark moment, I had to do something, what I was trained to do, suctioned the mouth then giving chest compressions and finally CPR. But it was too late. It was just too late. We did not have oxygen, we did not have airways, we had nothing.
We needed a doctor, a professional hospital, we needed to redo this all but we couldn’t.
This was a question I instantly began asking myself. What could I have done, what more could have I done? The sad thing is, I truly believe there was more that could have been done. I just wasn’t expecting something like that at all.
I have realized that life is unfair and can be so dark. I have found myself asking the question, why do some people live and others die? Who decides who lives and who dies?
Realistically I understand there are no clear answers to these difficult questions. But what I know now on this day is that I have experienced a revelation. On this day I realize how lucky I am to be alive…how lucky I am to be healthy and live in a family that loves me and provides for me. Ironically, this all happened right before I am about to leave my teenage years.
Today I was forced to be a man, to be mature, and defend life. This cannot even begin to be explained by words themselves. Today I am thankful for family, for friends, and for life.
Anjuli Wagner: Supporting Community in Ghana
In the summer of 2009, Atkinson Scholarship recipient Anjuli Wagner, a public health major at Tufts University, used her Atkinson Opportunity Grant to participate in a community health project in Adasawase, Ghana.
Download this PDF picture book chronicling Anjuli’s experiences upon receiving her Atkinson Opportunity Grant.