Daniel Choi ’20 wanted to bring the stars to those who are visually impaired. Caleb Lee ’21 and Celis Lee ’20 sought to help underprivileged students develop a passion for music. Claire Yoo ’20 hoped to raise awareness for issues of domestic violence against women. Kendra Kaericher ’20 dreamed of a butterfly garden that would bring joy to a children’s hospital. Thanks to the Kiril and Kate Sokoloff Fund, each of these students had the chance to bring their vision to life over the summer.
The Kiril and Kate Sokoloff Grants for Compassion and Kindness, established in 2010, are given each year to students who seek to promote those qualities in their wider communities. Students apply for grant monies each term, and in the summer, to support their proposed projects that demonstrate a vision to improve the lives of others.
Daniel Choi’s project was as much about this vision as it was about vision itself. “It had never occurred to me that some people, like those with visual impairment, could be inadvertently excluded from moments of wonder and amazement that inspire many to become interested in astronomy,” he says. After taking an Astronomy class at St. Paul’s School during his Fourth Form year, Choi says he became “enchanted” by the stars and was compelled to learn and do more. Thanks to funds from a Sokoloff Grant, Choi spent the summer working on his “Touch the Universe” project, which aimed to, “create a tactile, responsive robotic model of the solar system which can facilitate visually impaired individuals.” He presented this work to visually impaired individuals at the Saebit Rehabilitation Center for the Blind in Seoul, South Korea, where it was received with smiles and a curiosity sparked by his work.
Caleb and Celis Lee worked together over the summer to continue four years of service in conjunction with Love for Music, a non-profit based in Los Angeles, California, that provides free classical music lessons to underprivileged students from the ages of five through 13. Fortunate enough to have taken classical music lessons themselves growing up, they wanted others to have that same opportunity. “Love in Music allows us to share a part of our lives, music, in a context that promotes joy and learning,” says Caleb. While learning to play music is the stated goal, Celis notes that the mission goes far beyond that. “I learned that sometimes it is less important to stress learning over simply having fun and discovering a passion for music,” she says.
“I wanted people to be able to go to a place and see all that nature has to offer,” says Kendra Kaericher, “even if it is from inside their windows.” Thanks to her vision, the Nemours Children’s Hospital in Wilmington, Delaware, will feature a butterfly garden. Kaericher worked with hospital staff, local experts, and children in the hospital to raise 200 painted lady butterfly caterpillars, which will hatch in mid-August. She hopes that the garden will allow the children in the hospital an escape into nature. “I have learned much about flowers and how they are healing to everyone,” she says. “It has been challenging but it is so rewarding to know that I accomplished something that will make people happier on a daily basis.”
After a busy Fifth Form school year, Claire Yoo chose to pursue a Sokoloff Grant in the summer to be able to dedicate more time to her project. “I wanted to break out of the bubble and contribute to the community in a way that I am often unable to,” she says. Yoo’s project, “In Her Shoes,” is a magazine that highlights the cultural differences surrounding domestic violence against women. “My aim with ‘In Her Shoes,’” says Yoo, “is to bring awareness to domestic violence and educate allies and those supporting women who have suffered.”
Despite taking on extra work and responsibility during their summer break, all of the students stressed how thankful they were to have had the opportunity to do something that was so rewarding. “This grant truly allows members of the SPS community to apply the message of the School prayer and the values we learn in real life,” says Caleb Lee. “This opportunity has given us many treasured experiences.”