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By Sara Blair Matthews
Assistant News Editor

Two University student groups have received a $10,000 Projects for Peace grant from the Davis Foundation. The grants will support the improvement of youth technology skills in Puerto Rico as well as a retreat aimed to empower youth through academic excellence and cultural awareness in Botswana. Both projects will be implemented starting in June.

Jose Saavedra ’13 and Stefan Ivanovski ’12 are the creators of the first program, “Puerto Rico Se Anima.” The program aims to teach creative thinking techniques and 2D animations to about 50 high school students from the Nuestra Escuela organization.

According to their website (, their goal is to “provide students with the necessary skills and tools so they can become active social agents of change within their immediate communities and the wider region of Latin America and the Carribean.”

Saavedra believes that the arts dignify the soul.

“For me the focus is a bit different. It’s all about giving back to people. I wanted to ground the arts in reality and further help [these kids] in the long run. [Hopefully, our project will] help foster a culture of teamwork, cooperation and leadership among the youth,” Ivanovski said.

The pair chose Puerto Rico for their project location because they believe life on islands is much more difficult because resources are not always readily available.

“There aren’t as many resources, shipping is difficult and [there is a shortage of technology available.] Also, Puerto Rico has the second biggest police force in the world. There is a lot of repressed violence,” Saavedra said.

Saavedra is selling his artwork for $5 a piece this week in the Elaine Langone Center Mall to raise more money for this project.

The second recipient of the Davis Foundation Projects for Peace grant is “Boloka Ngwao – Preserve Your Culture,” a program that aims to inspire tomorrow’s youth leaders from historical culture.

Lebo Letsie ’12 created the program. She came up with the idea through firsthand observation while living in Botswana.

“I saw this as an opportunity for positive change back home. [I hope] it will have long lasting effects and that it will inspire people to become leaders and do things for their community,” Letsie said. “[This program aims to] encourage youth to achieve more in life. We want to make them well-rounded individuals. Hopefully, [this program] will equip them with the skills to succeed in the future.”

As far as logistics go, the program is organized as a “retreat” that aims to “re-connect Botswana youth with their culture [and] equip them with basic leadership tools and skills that they will use as they transition into adulthood.” 

“Each day will have a past, present and a future component. There will be four groups of people with approximately 20 kids per group. Each of the four groups will go on a four-day retreat,” Letsie said.

Letsie believes it is important to give back to one’s community.

“I have been very fortunate because of other people’s kindness,” Letsie said.

More information about her program can be found at her website:

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