Seevak human rights and social justice fellowships
“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., “Remaining Awake through a Great Revolution,”
Sermon delivered Sunday, March 31, 1968
“Each time a person stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”
—Robert F. Kennedy, Speaking on the Day of Affirmation,
University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa, June 6, 1966
Origin and Mission
The Seevak Human Rights and Social Justice Summer Fellowship program, begun in 2008, 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 the 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.
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 emerged thanks to the advocacy and vision of a number of Boston Latin Facing History alumni/ae, led by Benjamin Naimark-Rowse '99. These alumni/ae, working with Ms. Judi Freeman, Boston Latin School’s Seevak Chair in History (2000-2023), felt strongly that opportunities to get experience working with social justice and/or human rights NGOs and like organizations are essential to pursuing future careers in the field. Because it is generally difficult for many students to work without wages during the summer months, it was seen as essential to provide stipends to students eager to take up this type of work and to create a support network and in-depth collegial experience for them.
Fellowship cohorts from past years, along with their placements, are featured at the bottom of this page.
Fellows are selected based on demonstrated serious interest in human rights or social justice, their work in Facing History, 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 so that any fellow who does not successfully complete the Facing History course with a grade of C- or higher risks being removed from the fellowship program.
Once offered a Seevak Fellowship, the Seevak Chair and the Fellowship coordinator assist Fellows in interviewing at a number of potential fellowship sites and ultimately identifying the host organization and mentor(s) that best match 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 after the Fellowship matching takes place and preceding the start of the Fellowship, mentors and Fellows jointly develop 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 Fellows 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.
In most years, one of the weekly sessions will be replaced by a three-day trip to New York City, an integral feature of the Fellowship program. Fellows visit with NGOs and philanthropic organizations and individuals doing a wide variety of work related to the themes of the fellowship.
Over the years, Fellows have met with countless individuals and organizations, including the leadership of Atlantic Philanthropies and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, staff at the United Nations and the National September 11 Museum, pioneering human rights/social justice filmmakers at Avaaz, JustVision, and Witness, staffers at Physicians for Human Rights, the International Center for Transitional Justice, and the Guttmacher Institute.
Upon the completion of their fellowship, Fellows are required to produce a reflective essay on their summer experience. These essays 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 subsequent academic year, Fellows are invited to share their Fellowship experiences with the greater Boston Latin School community. 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.
Under the supervision of the Seevak Chair in History, Judi Freeman, the Seevak Fellowship program has been coordinated by Ben Naimark-Rowse '99 (2008), Ben Naimark-Rowse '99 with Rhea Kroutil-McKendry '08 (2009), Ben Naimark-Rowse '99 (2010), Ben Naimark-Rowse '99 with Yeshi Gaskin (2011), Ben Naimark-Rowse '99 with Billy Corbett (2012), Ben Naimark-Rowse '99 and Michael Manning '01 (2013), Ben Naimark-Rowse '99 and Daniel Gavin (2014-2016), Daniel Gavin (2017-2021), and Judi Freeman (2022-2023).
For further information, please contact Paula Bowles, Seevak Chair in History at Boston Latin School (2023-).
Getting involved as an alumni
Any Boston, New York or Washington D.C.-area alumni interested in helping with the interviewing of prospective Seevak 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.
Applying for the Seevak Fellowship
All juniors and seniors are eligible to apply for the Seevak Human Rights and Social Justice Summer Fellowship. Students must have successfully completed the Facing History course at Boston Latin School prior to the start of their Fellowship. This fellowship is only open to current Boston Latin School students. Please note that the Seevak Fellowship is a full-time, eight-week program. A stipend is provided so that all students, especially those who might need a paid position during the summer, are eligible
Applications and details specific to each year will be distributed via Google classroom. Eligible students will be given a link to the Google classroom, typically in December of the school year preceding the fellowship summer, and will receive further information there.
Scroll down to see images of the previous classes of Seevak fellows, beginning with the 2008 cohort.
Ben Naimark-Rowse '99 (left)
Daniel Gavin (center)
Judi Freeman (right)