Our Blog is Moving!

The Swearer Center of Public Service is proud to announce the launch of Swearer Sparks, an online platform for stories of social change at Brown University.

Swearer Sparks was designed with the belief that innovative, thoughtful approaches to social change depend on the exchange of people’s experiences and ideas. On this website, users can:

All of the blog posts on WordPress have been migrated to the Stories page on Swearer Sparks – and new posts will be added there as well.

Please visit brown.edu/swearersparks to explore this exciting new space!



When Hard Work Becomes Easy

“It’s not the big moments or the giant successes, instead it’s the little moments which matter the most and which make me love what I do.”


Billy Watterson ’15 is the Executive Director of Beat the Streets Providence, an organization that establishes wrestling programs in some of Providence’s poorest middle and high schools to provide students with a positive alternative community to the streets – a community founded on hard work, self-worth, teamwork, and camaraderie. Below, Billy reflects on the moments that make him love what he does. 

Usually when I write it comes easily. Not with everything, but with the things and stories that excite me, which is usually what I write about, it comes easy. This is especially true when I write about Beat the Streets, but for some reason this blog post wasn’t easy. I started, stopped, deleted, rewrote, and started over several times. There’s a reason for that.

A lot of what I try to do when I write about Beat the Streets is to tell our success stories and most of those are really easy and even fun to tell. When I tell them I get excited and animated and I want to tell more, and as many, people as I can. Most of the time it’s hard to get me to shut up because I love these stories. Yet for me it’s not the stories that I usually tell that make what I do worthwhile. It’s not the big moments or the giant successes, instead it’s the little moments which matter the most and which make me love what I do. These little moments are harder to write about because while they are important, they are harder to capture. Today I decided to try.

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Give and Take

“The beauty of each one-on-one tutor-learner partnership was that we gradually came to understand … that our relationships became less along the lines of tutor/learner and more along the lines of confidante/support system.”

Sujaya Desai ’14 and Sandra Yan ’15 are coordinators of PAL (Partnership for Adult Learning), which partners student tutors from Brown with adults with developmental disabilities in the greater Providence community to provide opportunities for mutual growth through personal relationships and the shared pursuit of continuing education. Below, they reflect on their experiences as well as the relationships they have formed over the past three years. 

Apprehension. That was what we were feeling as we walked to our very first meetings with our respective learners. What would we talk about for an hour? Would they laugh at our jokes? Would we get frustrated easily? It did not take long for us to realize these fears were unfounded. Our learners were happy, eager people who were excited to play matching games, wanted to learn how to write their names, and loved listening to the Beatles. In those early days as tutors, PAL to us meant making our learners laugh at least three times each week, finding out how their week went from their staff members, and accomplishing a task over the course of the hour that would leave us feeling satisfied with our progress.

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Changemaker of the Week: Karen Wanamarta ’17

unnamedKaren Wanamarta ’17 has quickly gotten involved at the Swearer Center as a first-year student. She is a BRYTE Coordinator and has recently started a new venture using BRYTE’s model of one-on-one refugee tutoring in her hometown in Indonesia.

Karen is being featured as part of the Social Innovation Initiative’s series, “Changemaker of the Week,” which highlights student changemakers at or from Brown. Each week, the newest Changemaker is featured on the Swearer Center blog and in the Social Innovation Initiative newsletter.

Q: What venture are you currently working on, and how did it get started?
A: After volunteering with BRYTE during the fall semester, I thought “Why not bring the same love and support Brown students bring to the refugee community here in Providence back home?” When I went back to Indonesia over winter break, I created EYRI (Educating Youth Refugees in Indonesia) with my brother Kenneth Wanamarta.

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Writing the World

“Each week working with Writers’ Group, I am struck by the unique lens with which each writer views the world. These folks have the ability to completely change how I look at writing, expression, and the world as a whole.”

Photo on 4-25-14 at 2.57 PM

Writers’ Group is a Swearer Center program in adult learning that leads weekly creative writing workshops for adults with developmental disabilities. Co-Coordinators Adam Kopp and Will Adams share and reflect on some of their experiences this year.

Adam: In one really positive workshop from this semester, our general theme was the future. As a group, the writers explored different modes of futurity, from their immediate plans for the weekend to the state of humanity in 100 years time. When it came to writing about the future individually, I noticed that the writers each proceeded along one of two distinct ideas that emerged. While some seized upon the future’s science-fiction potential, others thought towards their vision of a utopian future on earth. I was really happy with how different writers were able to tailor the same prompt towards their individual creative interests.

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Forging Connections

“The learning from BEAM is a two-way street, and it is just as thrilling to see volunteers transform into more effective and more confident teachers over the course of the year.”


Max Kaplan ’15 is a junior at Brown studying Computer Science – Economics. This is his third year as a volunteer and first year as a coordinator for Brown Elementary After-school Mentoring (BEAM), a community service program that runs after-school clubs four days a week at William D’Abate Elementary School in Providence.

The first time I volunteered with elementary school students was a nerve-wracking experience. How was I, a freshman in high school, going to control five third graders for a whole hour? Somehow I managed it, and even grew to like it: over the course of the next four years I worked with third graders once a week, helping them with math homework and pushing them to think creatively.

When I came to Brown I knew I wanted to continue volunteering with students, and I soon found myself involved with Brown Elementary After-school Mentoring (BEAM). As the name suggests, BEAM is a program through which Brown student volunteers run after-school clubs four days a week at William D’Abate Elementary School in Providence’s Olneyville neighborhood. BEAM aims to provide an enriching experience for both our Brown volunteers and our Olneyville students, as well as to foster an environment of collaboration and mutual learning.

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Changemaker of the Week: Kerlyne Jean-Baptiste ’16

unnamedKerlyne Jean-Baptiste ’16 runs the Wynn Project, a fashion show that aims to deconstruct traditional runway body types and create a space for inclusion. She also works with Students of Caribbean Ancestry, the Coalition Against Sexual Assault and Relationship Abuse, the Sexual Assault Policy Task Force, and Generation Citizen.

Kerlyne is being featured as part of the Social Innovation Initiative’s series, “Changemaker of the Week,” which highlights student changemakers at or from Brown. Check the Swearer Center blog or the Social Innovation Initiative newsletter each week for the newest Changemaker of the Week!

Q: What venture are you currently working on, and how did it get started?
A: What started as a conversation in the Blue Room with my best friend (Jasmine Bala ’16) about standards of beauty and fashion turned into a full scale venture to celebrate a spectrum of body types, shades of Brown, and backgrounds in a space that doesn’t actively incorporate that in their purpose. The Wynn Project Fashion Show has become my “baby” in the past month and I’ve become enamored with the idea of expanding it to newer heights in the future. I also LOVE Generation Citizen and can’t imagine how I didn’t hear about it or join my freshman year! It’s been an incredible learning experience to go into a high school classroom and actively engage students to create a change in their communities.

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