How Scholarships Help: Grace Sassana ’16

29 April 2015

Grace Sassana ’16
Alice Dau Han, R.N. Scholarship Fund

Grace Sassana ’16 always knew she wanted to help people. Working with monkeys—and loving it so much—came as a complete surprise to her.

As a biology major and student worker in the psychology department, Grace brings monkeys their food and cleans their cages. These cotton-top tamarin monkeys help Carleton researchers explore social awareness, social learning, and other behavioral issues. And as Grace learned about each monkey’s unique personality—especially her favorite, 21-year-old Quince—she realized that medicine or nursing might not be where her passion truly lies.

“I’d shadowed doctors and volunteered at the hospital, and I really liked interacting with patients, so that got me interested in medicine,” Grace says. “But when I came to Carleton, I started volunteering at the humane society, and I realized I hadn’t ever thought about veterinary school.”

Now, Grace says, she sees her path heading more toward zoology or working with exotic animals. But she also remains passionate about helping her fellow humans.

“I don’t see how social activism couldn’t be a part of my life,” she says, thinking about her involvement with many organizations and clubs. As a resident of Wellstone House, an interest house focused on student activism for social change, Grace helps organize Wellstone Wednesdays, where all students are invited to come and discuss social issues. She’s also a program director with the Center for Civic and Community Engagement and has volunteered with numerous nonprofits; for example, during her sophomore year, Grace and a small group planned a fundraising campaign and wrote grant proposals with a goal of raising $20,000 for the national organization Medical Brigades. Even though they fell short, she says, the experience was still incredibly valuable and insightful.

She’s also a fan of alternative spring break, which is a vacation spent volunteering, and in her freshman year traveled to Pine Ridge Native American Reservation in South Dakota to help with daycare and construction projects.

“We went with the mindset that we were going to be helping people, and it ended up that we were the ones who benefitted,” she says. “Pine Ridge is one of the most impoverished places—people say it’s like a third world country—and no one even knows about it. A lot of people on our trip were disheartened that we were only doing minor projects, that we weren’t really helping these people or changing their lives. But it got us thinking critically about our role in service and the social systems that are in place.”

In fact, she says, that’s probably the biggest lesson she’s learned at Carleton. The world isn’t always a fair or just place, and it will take critical thinkers to make change.

She realizes the world has been kind to her, and she says she’s very grateful for her scholarship and the opportunities she’s had. That’s part of the reason she believes so strongly in helping others through activism, and the motivation behind her determination to give back.

“I hope to become a Carleton scholarship donor some day and impact young, college-bound students,” she says.

Grace Sassana '16, recipient of 2013-2014 Alice Dau Han, R.N. Scholarship Fund

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