CASE Scholarship Application
for the 2024-2025 School Year
2023 Scholarship Winners:
CASE’s inaugural CASE Public Service Scholars are: Saskia Knight (UC Santa Barbara), Henry Pratt (UCLA), Lindsay Rule (UC Berkeley), and Chaya Tong (Emory University). We’ll be publishing a profile of each winner in CASE Files.Check back for full profiles of all of our winners:
CASE Public Service Scholars Award Winner:
CASE Public Service Scholars Award winner Saskia Knight says a soccer-ball kick five years ago changed everything.
She was a freshman at Berkeley High School and feeling a bit overwhelmed as a newbie on the 4,500-student campus: little fish, big pond.
“It wasn’t an easy place to be,” Saskia recalls. “It wasn’t easy to make friends.”
Other kids also had trouble fitting in, not because they were new but because they were individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) and were treated poorly. She overheard peers’ demeaning comments such as, “Dude, he’s special.” Some kids would pretend to be friends with IDD kids, Saskia says with a tinge of anger, “but they were hanging out as a joke. And the ‘r-word’ was thrown around constantly.”
That prompted Saskia to join the Berkeley High Chapter of Best Buddies International. The global nonprofit creates opportunities for one-to-one friendships, integrated employment, leadership development, and inclusive living for individuals with IDD.
At first, things didn’t go well.
Saskia knew little about the IDD community, and her assigned buddy, Kyle, didn’t talk much. But they still met for quiet lunches with other Best Buddy pairs, many of whom also seemed to struggle getting to know each other.
The club’s lunchtime meeting room had a basket of old, deflated kickballs that Saskia and Kyle weakly booted around because he loved soccer. Then one day, Saskia brought a new soccer ball and pump. She recalls that Kyle “kicked it with real power” out of the room. That triggered a pickup match outside among the club members. Kids who didn’t play watched and cheered with gusto.
“Kyle’s kick started a club-wide game and got everyone talking,” Saskia says. “After finding this common ground, Kyle and I became much more comfortable around each other.”
Eventually, Saskia was elected the Best Buddies Chapter President. She organized and led field trips and twice-weekly lunches. She facilitated introductions between members during icebreakers and group activities and set up buddy relationships. Together, club members watched movies, bowled, visited the aquarium, and attended prom together on a bus.
Despite leaving Berkeley High a year ago, Saskia calls Best Buddy “the most important thing I did in high school” and continues volunteering for the organization.
Beyond that, Saskia has been involved with Model United Nations and Youth & Government since 7th grade and credits those experiences with developing her critical thinking, research, writing, and public-speaking skills.
She also interned two years ago, when just 17 years old, for the Women’s History Institute Virtual Transcription Program run by Historic Hudson Valley. The not-for-profit education organization promotes the valley region’s history and landmarks. Saskia reviewed and transcribed handwritten early 19th Century letters and other documents to gain insights into residents’ daily life during that era.
All those teen experiences have shaped Saskia’s passion for service, but she says her mother’s work as a mediator has inspired her since childhood: “My mom resolves disputes in discrimination cases. I want to do work that will also benefit individuals in need.”
Saskia thanks CASE for choosing her to receive a $1,000 Public Service Scholars Award, which she will use to offset costs to attend UC Santa Barbara this fall. She enters her sophomore year as an Anthropology major with plans to earn a master’s degree in public health. Then, she says, she will launch a career “working directly with communities to solve health problems.”
CASE Public Service Scholars Award Winner:
Henry Pratt was a high school freshman when his dad, told him a story about interviewing Yippie activist Abbie Hoffman for his high school newspaper.
“That was really cool,” Henry said, “and I thought, ‘Maybe I can write an important story someday.’”
Since then, the Archie Williams High School senior has become nationally recognized for his reporting and speaking out about the fentanyl crisis among teens. It started about two years ago when his high school journalism advisor told Henry about how fentanyl deaths were spiking in San Francisco.
“I didn’t even know what fentanyl was,” Henry said, but after learning about it he decided to focus on the stories of Marin County kids who overdosed and died.
“‘Every parent’s worst nightmare’: fentanyl epidemic overtakes teens,” posted on his school’s student news website on November 1, 2021. It quickly gained recognition for its in-depth reporting and affecting interviews with parents who had lost children to the drug. Last year the report won several awards, including the National Student Press Association’s International Story of the Year in the Feature Category. Other fentanyl stories and awards followed, including nine that won national high school writing awards from Best of School Newspapers Online.
Meanwhile, he started speaking to students, community groups, local government leaders and law enforcement officials about the teen fentanyl crisis and the dangers of drug abuse. He also serves on the advisory board for Scholastic Magazine, an educational publication for middle school and high school students.
Henry’s service isn’t limited to journalism and public speaking, however. He has taught tennis at kids’ camps, officiated West Marin Little League baseball games, and volunteered with local food banks assisting homeless individuals.
He credits his family for his values.
“Frankly, public service has been ingrained into me since I was really little,” Henry said. “Grandma was a public school teacher, my dad works for the Marin DA, and my mom is an attorney for the PUC. I grew up in an environment that made me that much more receptive to reaching out to the community to make things better. It’s been a lifelong interest.”
Henry said he appreciates receiving his CASE scholarship and he will use the funds to offset expenses when he starts at UCLA this fall. He is interested in journalism, law, and politics, among other things, but he’s keeping his educational and career options open for now.
“Figuring that stuff out,” he said, “that’s what college is for.”
CASE Public Service Scholars Award Winner:
Chaya Tong’s life of service started when she was the oldest kid taking care of other children at a small Bay Area daycare. She recalled those earliest days of giving and receiving kindness in a college application essay published by The New York Times two years ago.
“Daycare is infused in me,” she wrote. “I can clean a room in five minutes and whip up lunch for seven. I remain calm in the midst of chaos. After taming countless temper tantrums, I can work with anyone. I continue to be a storyteller.”
Chaya’s obvious heart for service and dedication to learning – she is double majoring in biology and English – earned the Emory University sophomore a $1,000 CASE Public Service Scholars Award this year.
Asked what in her resumé of education and experience she deems the most significant, Chaya points to her work as an undergraduate student researcher for the Baby Brain Optimization Project (BBOP) at the Emory School of Medicine’s Department of Neonatology.
BBOP is examining the connection between premature birth and cerebral palsy. Many families in the program are low-income or speak English as a second language.
“As the grandchild of immigrants from China and India, I understand the challenges non-native English speakers face in navigating American institutions,” she said. “And I was a premature baby myself.”
That awareness and personal history make the work “a great way to give back,” Chaya says, as she does everything from guiding families through healthcare paperwork and explaining therapies to recruiting those who need services.
Chaya also blends science and service as a student researcher for the Georgia Civil Rights Cold Cases Project. Since last summer, her work has supported investigations of racially motivated murders in Georgia. The project, conducted by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and Emory professor Hank Klibanoff, spawned an NPR podcast, Buried Truths, that has won several journalism and public-service awards, including a Peabody.
Writing adds another dimension to Chaya’s service work. While the Times essay brought national exposure, she is also proud of her work at various Bay Area outlets and her college news publication. Her reporting for San Francisco’s Bay News Rising last year, for example, focused on special-needs education during the pandemic, and her stories for The Emory Wheel have touched on topics from peer-support services and the school’s new rideshare service to presidential politics and free speech on campus to COVID-19.
Chaya’s parents – her mom is a Department of Justice prosecutor, and her dad works in the Napa District Attorney’s Office – support her goals when she graduates.
“I’m interested in combining science and writing,” she said, such as working in communications for the Centers for Disease Control or another science-focused government entity.
Chaya knows it would be a challenging career path, explaining complex scientific facts in plain terms so the public can understand public policy. She’s up for it.
After all, Chaya Tong can work with anyone, and she’s a storyteller.
CASE Public Service Scholars Award Winner:
The five brown-and-green wooden boxes Lindsay Rule built are about the size of a microwave when stood on end, mounted on a post. Each box has a hinged door with a Plexiglas window that reveals the treasures inside. At the top of each door, in hand-painted block letters: “TAKE A BOOK,” and at the bottom, “LEAVE A BOOK.”
Lindsay installed her “Little Free Libraries” about three years ago at soup kitchens, a senior center, a daycare, and a house in Huntington Beach. She has since left her hometown for college. However, the libraries are still serving their communities – and are a reason Lindsay was selected to receive an inaugural CASE Public Service Scholars Award.
“I started this project during the pandemic lockdowns,” she says. “I felt incredibly disconnected from my community, completely alone and isolated. I realized this project would be something I could do for myself – I was going maybe a little stir-crazy – and for my community.”
The easy part – building the boxes with her uncle in his woodshop – took about four months. Figuring out where to install them was much tougher.
“That took the most time,” she recalls. “COVID shut places down, I couldn’t talk to people face-to-face, some places had rules against installing things, and others didn’t want to draw people during the pandemic.”
After approaching nearly two dozen people and organizations, four agreed to take a library. The fifth, a homeowner, heard about the project and offered a spot. Since then, the libraries have taken on the character of the areas they serve. A box near a daycare will be stuffed with children’s books. Senior centers tend to have books for mature readers. One library frequented by teens circulates video games. And the libraries near the soup kitchens are routinely packed with snacks.
Lindsay’s mother for many years has modeled selfless service by volunteering for charitable organizations and “has always spent free time helping other people,” Lindsay said.
She recalls going to soup kitchens and senior centers where she and her mother made meals and “just visited with people,” Lindsay says. “I remember how grateful they were for us being there. I was always happy and excited about that.”
Lindsay’s service work includes organizing parties and sewing blankets for Orangewood Children’s Home, sewing face masks and blankets that Breast Cancer Angels distributed during the pandemic, and volunteering for the Surfrider Foundation’s cleanups at nearby beaches.
Lindsay graduated with a 4.35 weighted GPA from Huntington Beach High School. She was deeply involved in Girl Scouts, her local chapter of the National Charity League, and the high school’s cross country and track and field teams, among many other extracurricular activities.
Lindsay says she appreciates the $1,000 CASE scholarship, and she will use the money to offset school expenses this fall. She is transferring from UC Santa Cruz to UC Berkeley, where she will start her junior year majoring in History of Art and Visual Culture, with a concentration in Curation, Museum, and Heritage. She intends to earn a master’s degree in architecture.