Kent State University Names 2022 Alan Canfora Activism Scholarship Winner
Kent State University has awarded the Alan Canfora Activism Scholarship for 2022-2023 to activist and incoming Kent State student Sophia Swengel from York Suburban High School in York, PA.
The Alan Canfora Activism Scholarship celebrates Canfora’s life, his Kent State experience and the importance of social justice and advocacy to society. On May 4, 1970, members of the Ohio National Guard fired into a crowd of Kent State demonstrators, killing four students and wounding nine, including Canfora. He was a tireless leader in the fight to protect and publicize the legacy of May 4.
Swengel impressed the scholarship committee with her essay which was well written, convincing and passionate about May 4 and its continued meaning. The events of May 4 and the activism that surrounded it are part of what motivated her to apply to Kent State University, and her plans upon arrival in the fall include joining the May 4 Task Force. "It is a way," Swengel wrote in her application essay, "to let my voice be heard for a cause that means the world to me."
She went on to write about the "tireless activism" of survivors and current Kent State students who are involved with May 4: "I find it incredibly inspiring that both people who were there on that day, such as the late Alan Canfora, and people born decades after that day are able to unite to raise awareness and fight for the truth. It sickens me that critical thinking skills and free speech, which were both put under attack on May 4 when critically minded students were placed under crosshairs, continue to be threatened at all structural levels of our society."
In her high school in York, PA, Swengel is a member of the Model United Nations Club where her activism shines. "It is up to those who still hold those values of rationality and determination, no matter their age or origin," she wrote, "to keep our human rights intact and stand up to those who attempt to tear them away."
Her high school social studies teacher and Model UN Club advisor wrote of her: "Sophia continues to pursue helping others in York Suburban’s Model United Nations Club as well as tackling real world issues such as climate change, social reform, and crisis management. These are all issues that Sophia has had to address at the various conferences we have attended and have been handled with the utmost respect and precision." Sophia serves as the club’s charity and fundraising chair.
"[W]e found in Sophia an intensity of purpose that reminded us of Alan," the committee noted in their consideration. When told she had been awarded the scholarship, Swengel had this to say: "As someone who cares deeply about keeping the memory of May 4 alive, earning this scholarship is a true honor. Receiving it encourages me to keep applying myself and to keep following in the footsteps of those who paved new ground before me."
Michael Solomon, a 1974 Kent State graduate, established the Alan Canfora Activism Scholarship in December 2020 to honor Canfora’s life and legacy. This scholarship provides up to two years of renewable support to a Kent Campus incoming first year or transfer student who has a demonstrated interest in social justice and advocacy and a demonstrated commitment of care and compassion toward others.
Donations to the scholarship fund in Canfora’s name may be made via the Alan Canfora Activism Scholarship page. For more information about this year’s May 4 Commemoration, visit the May 4 website.