A pair of documentary filmmakers, a permaculture farmer and two high school students pursuing social work are among the 2014 class of Vineyard Vision Fellows announced last week. And with 10 proposals being funded by the fellowship, it is the largest class in the program’s history.
The fellowship was established in 2006 by the Kohlberg family’s Philip Evans Scholarship Foundation (Jerome and Nancy Kohlberg also own the Vineyard Gazette). The foundation provides funding for Martha’s Vineyard residents to embark on sustainability-related initiatives, from postgraduate work to agricultural projects. The definition of sustainability is intentionally broad, allowing fellows to focus on conservation, social services and agriculture, to name a few areas.
“It’s really to strengthen individuals and allow the Vineyard to maintain and retain the qualities that everybody loves about it,” program director Melissa Hackney said following the announcement.
Last year no fellowships were awarded, as the program was going through a reevaluation of its goals, deciding to focus on supporting undergraduate and graduate education as well as project-based proposals.
“They are the ones who are doing things on the ground that are actually sustainable,” Ms. Hackney said.
There are 34 fellows from previous classes. This year saw a record number of applications, partially because of the visibility of other fellows’ work, Ms. Hackney said.
Two seniors at the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School, Jacqueline Menton and Sophie Ulyatt, will receive funding for their undergraduate degrees when they head off to school. Miss Ulyatt plans to pursue a bachelor of science in nursing, and will intern at the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital over the summer. Miss Menton will be interning at Windemere, focusing her work on dementia and memory-loss care.
Reached by telephone, Miss Menton said her guidance counselor had suggested applying for the fellowship. Miss Menton volunteers at the hospital, spending time in different units. After spending time with memory care patients, she said “I thought, this is the unit I should be in.” She will work with memory care coordinator Mary Holmes this summer, in addition to volunteering at Camp Jabberwocky.
“It’s really rewarding,” Miss Menton said. She said she plans to study psychology in college with a focus on geriatric psychology.
Ms. Hackney said the selection committee takes a long view when considering high school applicants. “We can’t expect them to come back any time soon, and we don’t want them to because they need to get that experience out in the world,” she said.
She said the committee had noticed an increase in proposals based around social services.
“I was personally impressed by that,” she said. “There’s clearly a need for more social workers and therapists.”
Luiza Alcenar Mouzinho’s fellowship will help support her work toward a dual degree in counseling and pastoral ministry from Boston College. Ms. Mouzinho received her bachelor’s degree at The College of the Holy Cross in Worcester. She started working for Martha’s Vineyard Community Services in September, and decided to apply for the fellowship as a way to help fill a void in Island services.
“I was working with a Brazilian couple that I really enjoyed helping,” she said. “I started thinking about the great need that there was here, especially for the Brazilian population, in terms of counseling and translating, and social services in general.”
The class this year also features three project-based proposals. Documentary filmmakers Ken Wentworth and Liz Witham will create a series of video episodes spotlighting sustainability efforts on the Vineyard. The episodes will feature the work of the Vision Fellows. Barbara Conroy will assist Aquinnah, Chilmark, and West Tisbury in town sustainability projects, including how best to use Massachusetts Green Communities funding in West Tisbury.
Kevin Brennan’s project will be the design and management of a 2.3-acre orchard at Island Grown Initiative’s Thimble Farm. Mr. Brennan will be working with Jamie O’Gorman of Island Grown Gleaning, and said he is hoping to encourage people to rethink the definition of agriculture.
“I’m trying to look at ways we can regenerate the land with perennial systems that mimic nature,” Mr. Brennan said. The orchard will include nut and fruit trees chosen primarily for their adaptability to the Vineyard climate. Planning for the project began in late winter, Mr. Brennan said.
“When the selection committee was presented with the applications, they felt that there were many that were basically ready to be funded, ready to be supported,” Ms. Hackney said.
“Each one of these people comes in with a different background,” she said. “I’m excited about this class; all of the fellows will be amazing.”
Other fellows in the 2014 Vision class follow:
Jaime Billings will pursue a master’s of social work from the University of Southern California’s Online School of Social Work. Ms. Billings will work with Connect to End Violence for her mentorship.
Samantha Chaves is earning an undergraduate degree in marine biology at Wheaton College. Miss Chaves will work with the Great Pond Foundation.
Louis Hall will earn an online master’s degree in environmental education from Northeastern University. Mr. Hall, who teaches at the charter school, will work with school director Robert Moore.
Megan Mendenhall will pursue an undergraduate degree in education at Smith College, will work with Donna Lowell-Bettencourt at the West Tisbury School.