2011 Ambrose R. Nichols Jr, Scholarship Recipient
Since 1976, the Alumni Association has awarded the Ambrose R. Nichols Jr. Scholarship to students who actively advocate for the betterment of their community. Funds for this $3000 scholarship are generated through interest collected by the Alumni Association’s Life Membership dues. The scholarship is intended to encourage recipients’ academic advancement and continued intellectual development.
This year, the Sonoma State Alumni Association awarded its Ambrose R. Nichols Jr. Scholarship to Women and Gender Studies major Kristel England for her political and social activism in shaping the lives of individuals struggling to sustain self-sufficiency through various non-profit and politically-active groups.
England started as a volunteer when The Family Connection (TFC) a Committee On The Shelterless visited one of her classes.
“As I heard these stories of single-parents who were transitioning to more stable lifestyles, I heard my own story being told.” England says. She didn’t hesitate to sign up.
As a volunteer, England helped homeless families reach and maintain self-sufficiency, providing services such as transportation and childcare to families. Last year, as England watched California social services and educational budgets being dismantled, she became a non-profit advocate for affordable childcare by joining Parent Voices, a project of the California Child Care Resource and Referral Network.
As a welfare recipient, England realized that most of the cuts made to Stage 3 welfare were affecting those working to get out of the system. As an advocate for Parent Voices, England helped to restore the very programs that helped her to move beyond her past circumstances.
England has also been successful in establishing a voice in another arena closer to home--her housing complex. As a board member of the Woodcreek Village Tenant Association, England worked to find resources for low-income families and to facilitate community-building events within the complex.
“One woman put in a request for a new refrigerator, as hers had broken. The management,” England explained, “told her to put a block of ice in it.” After months of unanswered complaints, the tenant brought her complaints to the WVTA. “I came by to help her write her statement, and within minutes, management brought a new regrigerator to her door.” As president, England also assured that the complex installed a play-structure and sidewalk that coincided with state safety standards.
England’s experiences as a welfare recipient, a political activist, and a community volunteer have helped her to realize her career path: analyzing and drafting public policy.
“I will be focusing my efforts on revamping the welfare system at both the state and federal levels. The current welfare system incentivitizes poverty by eliminating services at thresholds too low for self-sufficiency. Additionally, this system prioritizes low-wage work,” making it difficult for recipients to break out of dependence on social services.
“It’s a waste of American’s time and money to invest in programs and services that do not see families all the way through to independence.”
As England applies to graduate programs this fall, she intends to discover the balance between budgets and ideals and to determine how to integrate the two into a cohesive plan of implementation.
“It is my goal to create a welfare system that genuinely helps the needy, while not incentivizing poverty or limiting one’s ability to escape it.”