Wheaton College Norton, Massachusetts
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Sparking change

Fulbright Scholar Lindsay Powell sees education as a key to equality

A new world opened for Lindsay Powell after she first learned to read and speak Spanish in high school.

“I remember reading every Spanish-language advertisement on the New York City subway, and listening to every conversation in Spanish that I overheard,” Powell said. “I began to learn about Latino culture, food, music and dance.

Next year, Powell hopes to share the transforming power of language by teaching English to Malaysian schoolchildren as a Fulbright Scholar to Malaysia.

“I want to be able to work with young people especially and share with them the transformative experience I had when I began to learn Spanish,” Powell said. “I also believe learning English is a vital skill to have in our globalized world.”

A sociology major who is also pursuing minors in political science and development studies, Powell says that she looks forward to learning about Malaysia’s multi-ethnic and culturally diverse society by living there for a year. .

“After studying abroad in Vietnam I became fascinated with Southeast Asia and was particularly interested in doing more travel in the diverse region,” she said. “I chose Malaysia because I was intrigued by the mixing of cultures and ethnicities and how these realities increasingly play a role in the politics of the nation.”

A Wheaton Posse Scholar, Powell is a campus leader, currently serving as president of the Student Government Association. She also has been active in a number of other campus organizations, from the Roosevelt Institute and Best Buds to the Trybe dance group.

Powell is an experienced world traveler, too. In addition to her semester abroad in Vietnam, she also has spent a summer volunteering as a tutor in Rivas, Nicaragua, and she worked with youth in Cape Town South Africa last summer as one of Wheaton’s International Davis Fellows.

Through those experiences, she said, “I have seen the devastating effects that inequality and poverty have on children and young adults. I understand now how it damages one’s self esteem and self worth.”

Powell grew up in Brooklyn, NY, and she says that she first became aware of inequality as a child whose parents advocated for her and her brother to be reassigned to a better school from the low-performing public school closest to their home.

“My parents fought hard to get me and my brother out of that district and told us that our new school would give us ‘a fighting chance’,” she said. “For me the difference an education makes in one’s life is obvious.”

Issues of social justice and equality have formed the core of Powell’s studies at Wheaton, she said, noting that inequality can serve as a spark to achieving real and substantive change.

"Understanding and experiencing inequality can serve as a spark for positive social change because this shared awareness can motivate people to make a difference," she said. "It makes the injustices of the world seem less far away or removed from your own agency and has the ability to empower people to become an advocate and ally to those that may be facing equality globally."