After classmates establish a prize to remember the union activist and educator, its first recipient will deepen her work in refugee resettlement in Chicago.
Richardson, a labor union activist and educator who was a member of Hampshire’s first incoming class in 1970, died in May 2013. The award was established by his classmates, friends, and family to honor his dedication to organizing and building the collective voice and power of workers and their unions as well as supporting peace initiatives among veterans, military families, and others most impacted by war.
Rappaport will use the $2,100 award to intern with the Pan-African Association and Upwardly Global, two refugee assistance organizations based in Chicago. It’s a precursor to her Division III research beginning this fall, when Rappaport will stay in Fort Wayne, Indiana, for ethnographic research with the area’s thousands of Burmese refugees.
“For my Div III, I hope to look at the experiences of refugee resettlement, including employment and workers’ rights, for the Burmese in Fort Wayne,” she said. “I’m excited to see how this summer’s internships impact my Div III.”
Rappaport hopes the internships will help her develop a stronger understanding of the collaborations and ties between the many organizations working with immigrants and refugees in Chicago.
“Without the Charley Richardson Award, I would have had to pick between the two internships, and work a part-time job on the side,” she said. “That would have really hindered the experience, because part of the excitement is seeing how these groups work together.”
Ellen Fitzpatrick 70F and Betsy Dietel 70F 99P, two alum members of the selection committee who were also instrumental in establishing the award, noted the deep sadness they felt in losing Charley, and the importance for them in remembering his life by helping current Hampshire students.
Dietel said that “Charley was about action, and getting out and making change happen. This award is about helping students do that as well.”
“Charley was a warm, kind and big hearted friend. But he was also someone who led a fully engaged life and sought to make this world a better place,” added Fitzpatrick. “It seemed to me that one way to honor him was to make sure future generations of Hampshire students would know of Charley and his example and be supported in projects that might advance understanding of the causes that were most important to him. Cassidy Rappaport's interest in refugees living in the Chicago area who are struggling to adapt to life and labor in the U.S. seemed to us to capture the spirit of this award. Her prior activities and her clear sense of purpose impressed us greatly.”
The Charley Richardson Award is administered by Hampshire’s Career Options Resource Center (CORC), and CORC Assistant Director Jena Schwartz said Rappaport’s approach fit the award criteria perfectly.
“Ideally our work in CORC helps students apply what they’re doing in class and their Division work to real life situations and prepare them for work after Hampshire,” she said. “In Cassidy’s case, she was already so focused when she came in, it was exciting to be able to support that. What was impressive about her application was that we could feel the heart in the work.”
Professor of Anthropology and Asian Studies Sue Darlington, one of Rappaport’s advisors, had suggested she visit the CORC offices for assistance. It was one of many pieces of good advice Darlington has given over the years, Rappaport said, through a bond that formed even before she started at Hampshire.
“I’d traveled to Burma when I was fifteen, and once I got there I never wanted to leave. I’ve gone back seven times since,” she said. “When I first visited Hampshire as a junior in high school, I found that Sue had a big interest in human rights in Burma, and we sat in her office and talked for about two hours. That’s one of the big reasons I came to Hampshire.”
Rappaport has been working with refugees in a variety of ways since she was in high school, including an internship last summer in Oxford, UK, that CORC also helped to fund. After graduation, Rappaport plans to attend law school, with a focus on refugee work. CORC Director Carin Rank was pleased to see she was able to apply the award funding to such an important part of her academic work, and expects future awardees to put it to similarly good use.
“The Charley Richardson Award is very focused on Charley’s values and interests,” said Rank. “We knew that there would be students who could mesh with that.”