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Omari Caldwell and Sasha Solano-McDaniel - Fulbright Award

By Loyola University on Wed, 06/02/2021 - 20:09

(New Orleans – May 24, 2021) Graduates going global! Loyola University New Orleans is pleased to announce that a recent Loyola graduate has won a 2021-2022 Fulbright U.S. Student Award. Another has been selected as an alternate for one of the Fulbright Program’s most competitive awards. In recent years, Loyola has twice been named a Top Producer of U.S. Fulbright Awards by the U.S. State Department. It’s a reflection of the university’s commitment to excellence and global learning – and the kind of students Loyola attracts. Omari Caldwell, who graduated from Loyola on May 14 with a double major in history and political science, is headed this summer on an English Teaching Fulbright to Mexico, where he plans to offer a community engagement project aimed at developing youths' financial literacy. The National Council for the Evaluation of Social Development Policy (CONEVAL, Consejo Nacional de Evaluacion de la Política de Desarrollo Social) has produced reports that identify low-income and educational lag as two key factors in multidimensional poverty for the rural Mexican community. A proponent of constructivist theory and experiential learning, Caldwell hopes to use classroom work, online games and YouTube videos to teach financial literacy skills as a means of holding generational wealth. “Gaining financial knowledge is essential towards attacking poverty at its core because it will teach individuals the proper techniques for saving money and possibly fund social entrepreneurship programs that give back to the community,” he said. In his application essay, Caldwell talked about his work with Philosopher Kids, a student organization at Loyola that pairs Loyola students with local public schools in an effort to teach young New Orleanians the basics of philosophy. An avid reader, he said his greatest joy was watching young students “make it through a book and realize reading was not hard as previously believed.” He and Loyola friends helped them become more literate, reading out loud page by page and helping them pronounce and understand unfamiliar words. “Moments like these happened weekly and were important to me because it felt like my actions directly improved the childhood literacy rate in New Orleans,” Caldwell said. “Too often, black children are deflected away from reading and intellectual pursuits … I am proud that through my work with Philosopher Kids I was a strong example of a black student. More importantly, I hope the students learned a joy for reading and intellectual curiosity that sticks with them as they progress through school.” Sasha Solano-McDaniel, a Latin American Studies and Sociology major who also graduated in May, has been named an alternate for the Casten Family Foundation Award at the Università di Scienze Gastronomiche in Pollenzo, Italy. Only two such Fulbright study awards are given each year. If selected, Solano-McDaniel hopes to use the grant to pursue a Master of Gastronomic Sciences: World Food Cultures and Mobility, with an aim of creating access to world food cultures through education. As a sociology major she conducted qualitative analysis research on the American school lunch system as a part of the Louisiana Budget Project’s anti-hunger policy initiative. A close-up study of local school policies left her “astonished by the unequal and insufficient responses to questions of accessibility and poverty in American school cafeterias.” “Billions of pounds of food are wasted daily, yet millions of children go hungry. Americans are preoccupied with health to the point of compulsion but lead the globe in fast food consumption,” Solano McDaniel said. “Our cultures are diverse and vibrant, though our food remains corporate and engineered. Yet our potential is clear - our nation is comprised of a radiant multicultural history, great ecological diversity, and abundant resources. There must be change and food reform must be at the forefront.” Studying abroad, she aims to learn from Italian school systems, which have created communal dining spaces evocative of their food culture, serving accessible, organic, and locally sourced whole foods. She also hopes to adopt new tools, gain global perspectives, and use interdisciplinary collaboration and experiential research methods to bridge the gap between the current state of foodways and culture in the U.S. and the production, distribution and consumption of good, clean, fair food, locally and globally. Ultimately, Solano-McDaniel hopes to create a nonprofit connecting school sites across the country with the needed resources to make culinary education a reality in underserved communities. “To address the central issues of food accessibility, nutrition, and cultural erasure today, I see increasing access to culinary education as fundamental,” said Solano-McDaniel, drawing on her experience with Edible Schoolyard to illustrate “the potential of edible education, where academic curriculum is brought into kitchen-classrooms to increase students’ opportunities for cultural understanding, empowerment and access to quality food based in local and sustainable food systems. Students are able to express their cultural identities through cooking and discovering nutritious world food ways.”