This article originally appeared in the Macalester College Newsroom.
Macalester students Valeska Kohan ‘23 and Amanda de Souza ‘25 have been awarded $10,000 from Projects for Peace to carry out their own project in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where both students grew up. For over 15 years, Projects for Peace has worked with partner institutions to seek out young peacebuilders and encourage them to develop innovative and community-centered responses to pressing global issues.
For their project, “Seeds of Peace: Fighting Racism in Rio de Janeiro by Empowering Public School Teachers,” Kohan and de Souza will organize and present two workshops in June and July to public school teachers in the Brazilian metropolis. These workshops aim to provide the tools and resources teachers need in order to implement anti-racist practices and facilitate discussions about race in their classrooms.
Kohan, an economics and environmental studies double major, said she hopes these workshops can offer younger generations access to better resources and help reduce racist bullying.
“If more teachers promote anti-racist practices in classrooms, fewer students will be discriminated against,” Kohan said. “We hope this creates a ripple effect of Black empowerment, or youth empowerment, in general.”
For de Souza, a recently completed internship at Instituto Marielle Franco through Macalester’s summer internship grant program provided some vital inspiration for the project.
De Souza said that Marielle Franco was a Black woman and an activist for human rights, racial justice, and LGBTQIA+ rights. Her murder in 2018 remains unresolved.
“The institution was created to honor her memory and fight for her legacy, and it’s all surrounded by racial justice and advocating for the lives of Black people around the country. Our project is very connected to that,” de Souza said.
De Souza, an environmental science and political science double major, said that her time at Mac has given her the opportunity to work and research internationally.
“I really want to work with human rights, and this project will definitely enhance my experience and the knowledge I want to have to be a better professional in the future,” she said.
Both de Souza and Kohan also said they hope the project inspires other international students to think big and take action.
“Even if one person tells you it isn’t a good idea, talk to other people until it becomes a great idea and you can apply with confidence,” said Kohan. “We’re here for you and we want to help.”