Berkeley’s Elle Lawson ’21 Changing the World One Brush Stroke at a Time

For the past three years, Berkeley senior Elle Lawson ’21 has participated in Berkeley’s Global Scholars program and will be graduating from the program with honors. Every scholar is required to complete a capstone project to fulfill their program requirements. Elle’s project explores a global travesty that she has witnessed first-hand and she is taking action in one of the best ways she knows how – through her art.

Specifically, her project centers on ending gender discrimination for girls in rural Nepal and finding ways to advocate for positive change in the treatment of women. Elle’s research paper examines the beneficial effects of an education for girls and how it positively impacts them moving forward. 

Learn more, in her own words, about how Elle brought the Berkeley community together to make art and fund a year-long scholarship for a girl in Nepal to attend school.

“I visited Nepal prior to this Global Scholars project and saw first-hand the multitude of challenges and hardships the girls face in rural Nepal and it was heartbreaking. So when I joined Global Scholars, I knew exactly what I wanted to research. The sad truth is that 60 percent of the girls are married off before even reaching the legal age. In addition, 49 percent of impoverished women have encountered some form of sexual violence; a sad statistic is that only four percent of the sexual assaults are ever reported. Only 11 percent of impoverished girls in Nepal are in secondary school. Many girls are forced into domestic slavery and human trafficking, where they experience trauma at a very young age. After learning about this, I felt compelled to try to make a positive change. I wanted to become a beacon of light in a girl's life, hoping that she feels empowered and confident to learn and grow.
That is when I came up with the idea to combine what I love, helping others through art. As Vice President of the National Art Honors Society at Berkeley, I have a passion for painting. Having this opportunity to showcase my passion for art and help a girl in Nepal at the same time moved me into action. I instantly started planning with Mr. (Tim) Torkilsen, the director of the Global Scholars program. First, I created a presentation for the Upper Division students and faculty so they could learn more about Nepal and my project. From that presentation, I had 30 students sign up for an art class hosted my me on March 15 and I received many donations, not only reaching my fundraising goal, but doubling it! For my class, I chose to have everyone paint the national flower of Nepal, the rhododendron. I wanted everyone to find their inner artist, and I was blown away with their talent. Now, through everyone’s help, I can supply a girl’s scholarship, not only for her education, but also allowing for her to have supplies, a uniform, and tutoring. I am truly honored that so many people came together to help me and I am forever thankful to Berkeley for allowing me to have this amazing opportunity.”
Founded in 1960, Berkeley is an independent, Episcopal, college-preparatory day school located in Tampa, FL, for boys and girls in grades Pre-Kindergarten through 12. Approximately 1,400 students gather here from the greater Tampa Bay area to form ONE Berkeley.