“This experience grew my confidence and my ability to execute my vision.”
Elisabeth-Monique Tossa ‘24 was one of 16 Civic Scholars in the senior class to present their work from the summer to family, friends and other members of the WashU and St. Louis community at the Civic Scholars Share Out. Held on Oct. 6, the junior class of Civic Scholars also joined the Share Out, to catch a glimpse into what their upcoming summer could look like, as well as the kinds of communities they could engage as partners.
Tossa asked the room to consider how they might practice self-compassion. After the passing of her father, she found the importance of support for grief. She worked with the Intersectional Grief Collective to, as she put it, share both plates and stories. Tossa detailed how, with a diverse community working together towards healing, she has been able to accept the good, the bad and the ugly of grief.
“This summer reminded me that if anyone deserves grace, it’s those who have experienced significant death,” she said.
A focus of the Civic Scholars Program is to help students learn that community can be explored in many ways, a concept that came through in the Civic Scholars’ presentations. For Tossa, the experience of grief informed how she explored community; for Keona Dordor ‘24, the summer was largely spent with ancestors of members of the Underground Railroad.
As an example, Dordor pointed to the unification of the Dent Family, which was made possible by the Greenwood Cemetery Preservation Association. Black cemeteries are often neglected and reinforce a sense of invisibility and marginalization in Black communities.
“I would argue the preservation is one of the most urgent things that we can get involved in, that pertain to so many things that we are passionate about,” Dordor said as she concluded her presentation. “And preserving history is activism.”
Dordor was not the only Civic Scholar to dedicate her time to marginalized communities. Jasmine Yang and Pat Wang both focused on specific areas of St. Louis that reflect broad societal implications. For Yang, the focus was disability inclusion in medicine; whereas Wang advocated for gay seniors in Missouri retirement homes.
They are only a few of the awe-inspiring presentations conceived and delivered by Gephardt’s Civic Scholars Class of 2024. Audience members walked away with awareness of pressing social issues that they perhaps had not known before. Not only did the Civic Scholars detail how their journeys affected them personally, but they were able to pass this knowledge forward. The task of being a Civic Scholar is never truly over.
Wang is looking forward to continuing his advocacy by writing an op-ed to be submitted to the McKnight’s senior living magazine.
“Pride is infectious,” he said. “This is why community outreach is so important—when we take the time to work with others to improve their inclusivity, they start to do that as well.”
To view a recording of the Civic Scholars Share Out, click here.
The Civic Scholars Program is offered annually to select WashU undergraduates and is made possible by generous donations to the Gephardt Institute. Civic Scholars are awarded stipends for their Civic Summer work with their partner organization. Learn more ￼about Civic Scholars and their Civic Summer projects. If you are interested in applying or nominating a sophomore for the program, applications will be available online in early November. If you would like to make a gift to support the Civic Scholars Program, please contact Colleen Watermon at ￼email@example.com￼.