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Committed to Social Justice

May 16, 2016

Congratulations to bioengineering student Peyton Perry, E'20, who was one of two NU students selected to be part of the Oxfam America CHANGE Initiative. Oxfam America is a global organization working to right the wrongs of poverty, hunger, and injustice. Each year, Oxfam's CHANGE Initiative brings together 30 of the most committed and passionate student leaders and trains them to develop their skills, expand their knowledge of global issues, and provide them with the necessary resources to return to their campus and undertake work with a view towards alleviating global hunger and poverty.

Source: News @ Northeastern

Two North­eastern Uni­ver­sity stu­dents have been named to Oxfam America’s Change Ini­tia­tive, a pro­gram aimed at fur­thering the human­i­tarian organization’s mis­sion to right the wrongs of poverty, hunger, and social injus­tice through campus projects and programs.

Peyton Perry and Taj Akin­bode will spend the 2016–17 aca­d­emic year working as Change Leaders to raise aware­ness of these issues among the North­eastern com­mu­nity, har­nessing their pas­sion for human­i­tarian work and social change to spear­head spe­cial events for stu­dents, fac­ulty, and staff.

Perry, E’20, and Akin­bode, SSH’17, were two of only 26 col­lege stu­dents nation­wide to be selected for the pro­gram. As human­i­tar­ians with hun­dreds of hours of com­mu­nity ser­vice work under their belts, they are pre­pared to tackle the chal­lenges ahead. Perry cur­rently vol­un­teers for Jump­start, an Ameri­Corps pro­gram that trains col­lege stu­dents to mentor preschool-​​aged chil­dren. During the aca­d­emic year, she works with kids at the Parker Hill-​​Fenway Head Start pro­gram in Boston’s Mis­sion Hill neigh­bor­hood, helping them improve their lit­eracy and com­mu­ni­ca­tion skills.

Akinbode’s resumé reads like the cur­riculum vitae of the quin­tes­sen­tial altruist, a who’s who of campus and com­mu­nity orga­ni­za­tions: He’s cur­rently the com­mu­nity ser­vice coor­di­nator of Northeastern’s Islamic Society and the director of oper­a­tions and strategy for Africans in Boston; in the past, he’s served as an orga­nizing member of the fifth annual Mil­len­nium Campus Con­fer­ence and vol­un­teered for Habitat for Humanity to rebuild homes that were destroyed by Hur­ri­cane Katrina.

May 23, 2016 - BOSTON, MA. - Taj Akinbode, SSH'17, and Peyton Perry, E'20, pose for a portrait at Northeastern University on May 23, 2016. The two students have been selected to be part of Oxfam America's Change Initiative. Photo by Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University

I want to be a force for good for North­eastern, my com­mu­nity, and the world as a whole,” said Akin­bode, reflecting on his rea­sons for wanting to be part of the Change Ini­tia­tive. “I am familiar with many of the soci­etal ills that Oxfam works to improve and I am excited to help bring the organization’s mis­sion to the uni­ver­sity.” Noted Perry: “As a change leader, I hope to open the eyes of the North­eastern com­mu­nity to human­i­tarian issues that many of us are so often blind to.”

Com­mu­nity building

Both stu­dents bring a unique set of qual­i­fi­ca­tions to the Change Ini­tia­tive, per­sonal and aca­d­emic expe­ri­ences that make them stand out among their peers in the pro­gram. Perry is a second-​​year bio­engi­neering major, one of the only par­tic­i­pants to study hard sci­ence. She wants to go to med­ical school with an eye toward working for Doc­tors Without Bor­ders, a lofty goal that dove­tails with her pas­sion for com­mu­nity ser­vice and her keen interest in Oxfam America. “When I was younger, my family wasn’t very well off, and I got to see how vol­un­teers helped to improve my life through small acts of kind­ness,” said Perry, who grew up in Nor­wich, Con­necticut. “Now I really enjoy helping others.”

Yelana Loiselle, Perry’s Jump­start super­visor, believes that the young humanitarian’s team­work skills, orga­ni­za­tional acumen, and com­mit­ment to ser­vice will make her an invalu­able member of the Change Ini­tia­tive. “In addi­tion to being mature and respon­sible,” Loiselle wrote in her letter of rec­om­men­da­tion to Oxfam, “she has also helped to create a pos­i­tive team and class­room cul­ture by devel­oping rela­tion­ships with her team­mates, chil­dren she served, class­room teachers, and the par­ents of Jump­start children.”

Akin­bode grew up in Nigeria, where he wit­nessed the scourge of poverty first­hand. He wants to parlay his per­sonal experience—as well as his intel­lec­tual curiosity as a fourth-​​year eco­nomics and inter­na­tional affairs com­bined major—into a career in inter­na­tional devel­op­ment. The way he sees it, working as a change leader will bring him one step closer to achieving his pro­fes­sional goals. As he put it, “I have delib­er­ately shaped my engage­ment both on and off campus to reflect my deep-​​rooted desires to advance issues related to eco­nomic devel­op­ment, poverty, and social injus­tice. I am con­vinced that the expe­ri­ence I will gain as a change leader will help me impact society beyond Northeastern.”

Richard Wamai, assis­tant pro­fessor of African Amer­ican Studies, has served as Akinbode’s mentor since the spring of 2013, when the stu­dent worked to estab­lish the North­eastern Uni­ver­sity Col­lo­quium on Africa. He said Akin­bode is a well-​​rounded stu­dent with a pas­sion for learning, lead­er­ship, and social change, a deter­mined scholar with a strong plan for life­long suc­cess. As he explained, “He has worked dili­gently to pre­pare him­self for this type of lead­er­ship oppor­tu­nity, his values align with Oxfam’s mis­sion, and his par­tic­i­pa­tion in the Change Ini­tia­tive will pos­i­tively impact his career journey in the long run.”

The pro­gram will not begin in earnest until this fall, but all 26 of the young human­i­tar­ians will be meeting in Boston in July to par­tic­i­pate in lead­er­ship and team-​​building activ­i­ties. For Perry, the training ses­sion rep­re­sents an oppor­tu­nity to get to know her new peers, to talk shop and social change. “I hope to bounce ideas off my fellow change leaders and get inspired by their rea­sons for taking part in this ini­tia­tive,” she said.

Akin­bode noted that Northeastern’s com­mit­ment to diver­sity and inclu­sion will serve him well as he inte­grates him­self into yet another new com­mu­nity: “We will have to work with people from all dif­ferent cul­tures and back­grounds,” he said, “and being part of a diverse com­mu­nity has given me the skills needed to build bridges and make connections.”