“It takes time to heal from the trauma of gun violence,” Dr. LJ Punch, the founder of the Bullet Related Injury Clinic, told St. Louis Public Radio at the end of 2022.
“Unfortunately, in St. Louis, bullet-related injury is endemic,” Punch said. “It brings up all the other traumas that you didn’t get the chance to fully heal.”
The Bullet Related Injury Clinic, or BRIC, is one of many organizations that Gephardt Institute St. Louis Fellows are working with in 2023. Mishka Narasimhan, a St. Louis Fellow and rising senior, plans to assist BRIC in healing the community of St. Louis through holistic wound care.
“Because of the Goldman Fellowship, I get to learn every day how to center humanity into the practice of medicine which I really want to take with me to my career,” Narasimhan said about the opportunity.
The St. Louis Fellowship is open to all undergraduate students at WashU regardless of school or major. This further bolsters the institute’s mission to make civic and community engagement an accessible and central part of WashU students’ education. Bringing their various educational backgrounds and experiences, the impacts these fellows have on St. Louis are incredibly diverse and widespread.
Grace Marcus, a rising sophomore, is working with the Missouri chapter of The Alzheimer’s Association to raise awareness about the effects of Alzheimer’s in the St. Louis community. According to the Alzheimer’s Association website, 319,000 family and friends provide unpaid care to people living with Alzheimer’s or other dementias. Marcus explained that her goal this summer is to both meet people who are affected by Alzheimer’s affects and analyze the relationship between those affected by both Alzheimer’s and Down Syndrome.
While Marcus and Narasimhan work to better the mental and physical wellbeing of the St. Louis community, rising senior Izzy Silver hopes to draw attention to social injustices produced by legal systems—beginning locally.
“I’m designing it in such a way that tells a story about what the impact of mass incarceration is on vulnerable and marginalized populations,” she said. Silver detailed her first project for the Freedom Community Center (FCC), developing a graphic from data collected during court hearings that is to be released in the next couple of months. She hopes the graphic will educate St. Louisans on the injustices that many citizens face when it comes to court decisions.
Mike Milton, the FCC founder and executive director, explains in his Love Letter to St. Louis how the community he once knew and loved regressed. “It was [at professional therapy] that I learned that the harm I did to my community was a response to the harm that was done to me.” To counteract the hardships endured in correctional facilities, Milton created the Freedom Community Center described as his Love Letter to St. Louis.
“At FCC we will model alternatives to the criminal legal system that are based in power and healing because it’s what we deserve. And we are settling for nothing less.” said Milton.
Similar to Silver’s mission, fellow and rising sophomore Ariel Nochez is working to support re-immersion into society post incarceration. With the organization LaunchCode, Nochez will teach marginalized populations, including but not limited to inmates at St. Louis prisons and digital literacy classes such as coding.
LaunchCode has even attributed credits to these courses, which will count toward degrees at accredited universities such as Washington University. Payment technology company Square’s founder Jim McKelvey is a WashU alum and founded LaunchCode to address gaps both in the equitable workforce arena and skilled tech employees.
“As a first-generation student, I’ve seen the discrepancies in education, especially growing up,” said Nochez. “So, I really thought, I had the opportunity to go to WashU—so I think I can use my knowledge to kind of help those who aren’t as fortunate as I am to have this opportunity.”
The St. Louis Fellows Program is offered annually to select WashU undergraduates and is made possible by generous donations to the Gephardt Institute. Fellows are awarded stipends for their summer work at St. Louis organizations such as the ones mentioned above. Learn more about the 33 St. Louis Fellows who have dedicated their 2023 summer to St. Louis, and about their 29 partner organizations. If you are interested in applying or nominating a student for the 2024 program, applications will be available online in the fall. If you would like to make a gift to support the St. Louis Fellows Program, please contact Colleen Watermon at firstname.lastname@example.org.