Tributes to Sheldon Seevak

Seevak Human Rights and Social Justice Summer Fellowship

Human Rights and Social Justice Summer Fellowship

On some positions, cowardice asks the question, 'Is it expedient?' And then expedience comes along and asks the question, 'Is it politic?' Vanity asks the question, 'Is it popular?' Conscience asks the question, 'Is it right?' There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must do it because conscience tells him it is right.

- Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.


The Seevak Fellowship's Origin and Mission

The Seevak Human Rights and Social Justice  Summer Fellowship recognizes that sustaining democracy and fighting injustice and intolerance rests on a foundation of historical knowledge, critical thinking, ethical choices and personal engagement.  The Summer Fellowship provides an opportunity for a select group of juniors and seniors who have completed the Facing History course at Boston Latin School to work for eight weeks over a summer at a human rights or social justice non-governmental, not-for-profit organization.  The fellowship summer is a period of experiential learning in which students engage their historical knowledge in context and contribute personally to the work of some of the world's most prominent human rights and social justice organizations.

Boston Latin School seeks to ground its students in a contemporary classical education as preparation for successful college studies, responsible and engaged citizenship, and a rewarding life. 

The Facing History curriculum at Boston Latin School examines some of the most troubling aspects of twentieth-century world history, including the study of identity, the practice of 'othering,' discrimination, prejudice, and marginalization, and the escalation from those stages to war, racism, ethnic cleansing, and genocide.  It poses essential questions about what independently thinking individuals can do to engage citizenry in efforts to break historic cycles of mass violence and systemic violations of human rights.

The Seevak Summer Fellowship was the brainchild of a number of Boston Latin alumni/ae, led by Benjamin Naimark-Rowse '99, who had taken the Facing History course at the school.  These alumni/ae felt strongly that opportunities to get experience working with social justice and/or human rights NGOs and like organizations was essential to pursuing careers in the field.  Because it is difficult for many students to work without wages during the summer months, it was seen as essential to provide fellowships to students eager to take up this type of work and to create a support network and in-depth collegial experience for them. 

Fellowship Program

Fellows are selected based on demonstrated serious interest in human rights or social justice, academic ability, application essays and an interview process.  In addition, Fellows must have successfully completed the Facing History course at Boston Latin School prior to the start of their fellowship.

Boston Latin School faculty and alumni assist Fellows in selecting a host organization and mentor that best matches their personal interests and goals.  Host organizations and mentors are carefully selected to ensure that they will encourage Fellows to make substantive and unique contributions over the course of the fellowship summer.  To achieve this goal, in the months leading up to the start of the Fellowship, mentors and Fellows are required to develop jointly a work plan that identifies tangible projects the Fellow will undertake.

Mentors engage Fellows in much more than administrative work; Fellows might track war crimes and acts of genocide with Physicians for Human Rights, participate in operational and strategic planning for responses to climate change with Oxfam America, research and advocate for changes to juvenile justice practices with Community Change, study harm reduction strategies with Partners in Health, provide research and logistical support for medical field teams fighting HIV/AIDS with the Clinton Foundation, or build coalitions and develop policy to increase volunteerism in the fight against poverty with Be the Change Inc. The Fellowship program provides a stipend for Fellows to pursue their goals during their fellowship summer.

In addition to the individual Fellows' work, the entire class of Fellows meets as a group on a weekly basis over the course of their eight-week Fellowship.  These weekly sessions will provide students with an opportunity to engage leading practitioners and academics in an intimate setting on salient human rights and social justice issues, visit important human rights institutions, attend academic debates and presentations and/or participate in other activities.  Fellows are encouraged to suggest session topics and otherwise participate in the planning and design of these sessions.

One of the weekly sessions will be replaced by a three-day trip to New York City. During our inaugural trip, fellows met with the President of Atlantic Philanthropies, took a tour of the United Nations, learned about human rights video advocacy at WITNESS, visited the National 9/11 Memorial and Museum, discussed online and new media activism with staff of Avaaz dot org, and discussed the roles that messaging, women, and the media play in social justice work at Fenton Communications.

Upon the completion of their fellowship, Fellows are required to produce a reflective essay on their summer experience.  These essays should detail the activities the Fellow undertook during their Fellowship and how the Fellowship program affected their perspective on the struggle for democratic institutions, human rights and tolerance.  During the autumn term of the subsequent academic year, Fellows are invited to share their essays and Fellowship experiences with the greater Boston Latin School community at public panels.  Through these discussions the Fellowship program hopes to provide the Fellows with an opportunity to speak publicly about their Fellowship experience, to raise awareness of the Fellows' issue areas and to encourage the greater Boston Latin School community to think independently about and to become involved in the struggle for democratic institutions, human rights, and tolerance.

For further information, please contact: Ben Naimark-Rowse '99 at naimarkrowse@gmail.com
and/or Ms. Judi Freeman at jfreeman@boston.k12.ma.us 

Any Boston, New York or Washington D.C.-area alumni interested in helping with the interviewing of our new Human Rights and Social Justice fellows, suggesting partner organizations to host future Fellows or otherwise assist in the management and development of the Program are encouraged to contact us to get involved.  We welcome your ideas and your interest.