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Elon grads take part in Sri Lanka forum

Two young alumni grew their Periclean Scholar legacies through a program for social and environmental activists.

Jesse Lee '11 and Natalie Lampert '11 represented the United States in the 4th annual Training for Trusteeship program sponsored by the Weeramantry International Centre for Peace Education & Research. (Photo courtesy of Nasif Khondker)

Two Elon University alumni took part this month in the 4th annual Training For Trusteeship Workshop, a weeklong international program in Sri Lanka that brought together dozens of student activists from across South Asia and the United States.

Jesse Lee ’11, an environmental studies major, and Natalie Lampert ’11, an international studies and creative writing double major, traveled to the island nation off the southeast coast of India as the only two Americans accepted for 2011.

The program inspires youth to “do what they can as individuals and future leaders to change their countries for the better by working across the cultural, religious, disciplinary and institutional divide in serving their communities,” according to the website for the Weeramantry International Centre for Peace Education and Research, which sponsors the program.

Judge C.G. Weeramantry, the former vice president of the International Court of Justice, founded the center that bears his name in 2001.

In addition to seminars and workshops, participants were grouped into teams and tasked with putting together proposals for sustainable programs that address environmental or social justice issues. Lee’s team ultimately suggested a training initiative for regions to incorporate environmental awareness into their tourism programs; Lampert’s group put forward the idea of a global online environmental education network.

“We learn about culture and we learn about history,” Lee said, “but rarely do we learn about the local environment, whether it be natural phenomena, or species, or even the climate.”

Lee and Lampert’s visit was funded in part by a grant from the U.S. Embassy in the nation’s capital, which covered travel expenses to and from the nation. The two scholars have had a long relationship with the embassy’s American Cultural Center, which awarded Elon’s Class of 2011 Periclean Scholars a grant to fund an environmental forum in the country last winter.

From left: Neshan Gunasekera, WICPER Project Director & Training for Trusteeship Director; Natalie Lampert '11; Judge C. G. Weeramantry, founder of Weeramantry International Centre for Peace Education & Research; and Jesse Lee '11. (Photo courtesy of Nasif Khondker)

“It’s pretty cool for us to be halfway around the world doing this, and still feeling very connected to Elon and the Periclean Scholars,” Lampert said. “It’s nice to be ambassadors for a program that helped define our time at the university.”

Tom Arcaro, a professor of sociology and director of Project Pericles at Elon University, said he hopes that Lee and Lampert’s participation in the 2011 Training for Trusteeship opens doors for future Elon students who show interest in international environmental and social justice issues, and who would consider applying to future Training for Trusteeships. “They see this as, and we see this as, long-term relationships,” Arcaro said.

Lee and Lampert plan to remain in Sri Lanka through mid November volunteering for Foundation of Goodness, a nonprofit founded in 1999 by Kushil Gunasekera with the purpose of empowering rural communities in the island nation. They are currently teaching English lessons at one of their Periclean class’s partner schools in the central region of the country.

Upon their return, Lee plans to possibly continue his work with FFR Trikes, which sponsored his unsuccessful 2010 attempt to cross the United States in a solar-powered recumbent trike. “I have a good feeling that some things that are coming out of this conference, and the contacts that we’ve made, that I might get involved with different projects that are still in development,” he said.

Lampert is juggling options as well. She’s applying for a Fulbright grant to teach English in Sri Lanka, has been accepted into the Peace Corps, and the World Teach volunteer teacher program remains a third possibility.

Eric Townsend,
9/19/2011 2:14 PM