Takako Mino ’11 Wins Inaugural Napier Creative Leadership Award

International Relations major Takako Mino ’11 has won a Napier Award for Creative Leadership that will help to expand her humanitarian efforts and nascent student debate program in East and Central Africa.

Mino is one of two students from The Claremont Colleges to receive the inaugural award, which carries a cash grant of $10,000. She received the award during a recent banquet at Pilgrim Place in Claremont.

The Napier Awards were established to honor the humanitarian leadership of Davie and Joy Napier longtime residents of Pilgrim Place who spent their lives in humanitarian service to others. The Napiers were thoughtful activists for civil rights, global justice, peace and the environment.

“I can feel the Napiers’ compassion and commitment to helping others through my interactions with their friends at Pilgrim Place.” Mino says. “As Napier Fellows (finalists for the award), we were each given a book called To Stop the Weeping, which tells the stories of their lives as religious leaders, educators, and activists. I feel very honored to have received an award named in the memory of such inspiring and warm individuals.”

The Awards will be given annually to two graduating seniors who have demonstrated outstanding leadership promise in one of the three principal fields to which the Napiers dedicated themselves: global peace, social justice and care of the Earth.

A recipient of two summer internship grants from CMC’s Center for Human Rights Leadership and a Claremont McKenna Uroboros Fellowship, Mino plans to extend a pubic debating project she developed as a pilot program last summer (read more here) in Kenya and Uganda working with the Forum for African Women Educationalists (FAWE), the 2008 recipient of the Kravis Prize in Leadership.

Mino also plans to continue her previous work among teachers and students in Uganda and Kenya and expand the project to include Rwanda and Tanzania. Her goal is to enhance the ability of African girls and boys to address social injustices as well as for fostering the personal skills necessary for self-growth and productive long-term citizenship.

“Ugandans are incredibly warm and friendly people, and they immediately welcomed me into their family during my homestays,” Mino says. “My homestay parents would call me their daughter and my homestay siblings would call me their sister. So, in a sense, I felt that I was at home during my time in Africa.”

Mino says that she has given considerable thought about how she will allocate the grant funds, even going so far as to develop a proposed budget. Mino says that the $10,000 grant will go a long way in covering a myriad of costs, including travel and accommodation expenses of students and teachers during inter-school debates.

As for what the future foretells for this motivated senior, five years from now may see Mino teaching in Ugandan schools and modeling a humanistic approach to education. What’s certain is her steadfast belief that you don’t have to have a large wallet to make an impact in the world.

“I think that we can do many things as individuals every day to gradually create a better world,” she says. “Since societal change begins with transformations at the individual level, challenging ourselves everyday to become better people will create ripple effects upon our community and the world. The lack of money has been a challenge, but I usually make the determination to do something first and then find some way to make it happen. You can accomplish a great deal when you build relationships with people who are dedicated to the same cause and support each other in developing your ideas.”

In addition to Mino, Jacob Cohen PO ’11 received the other $10,000 Napier Award for a project to improve public schools serving Vietnamese children in New Orleans. Ten other finalists from The Claremont Colleges, including Carly Graber ’11 and Amanda Lam ’11, received $250 awards for their projects and accomplishments in leadership. All the recipients will enjoy a year’s mentorship with a resident of Pilgrim Place.

This year’s candidacies were limited to graduating seniors at the Claremont Colleges. In the future, nominations will be encouraged from colleges and universities across the United States.

A group of faculty and staff from the Claremont Colleges assisted the Napier Initiative Planning Committee in developing award guidelines and nominating student candidates.