April 22, 2024

Meet the 2024 Nielson Social Change Innovation Grant Recipients!

Students Indigo Araya and Nichole Champion have been awarded the 2024 Nielson Social Change Innovation Grant for their transformative projects that promote social justice and community wellbeing. The Nielson Grant, made possible through the generosity of Patrick Nielson ’71 and Dorris Nielson, provides funds for Lewis & Clark undergraduate students to bring their initiatives to life to create systemic social change. This year’s recipients are tackling issues of transgender rights in Costa Rica and holistic wellness in Portland.

Trans and Non-binary Anti-discrimination Training Project: Facilitadores Trans Sensibilizando Servicios Públicos en Costa Rica

By Indigo Araya

Place of project: Costa Rica

Major: Hispanic Studies/ Ethnic Studies


Índigo Araya R ’24 has designed a practical program to combat discrimination against transgender and non-binary individuals in Costa Rica. Through a partnership with the activist group No-Binarie Costa Rica, the project will train transgender facilitators to lead anti-discrimination workshops for employees in public services like hospitals, government offices, and universities.


The core goals are to raise awareness of the urgent need for gender-affirmative care, create employment opportunities for the transgender community, and build allyship with public institutions. A facilitation training camp will bring together 15 transgender participants to develop skills in public speaking, conflict resolution, and transgender rights advocacy. These newly trained facilitators will then be deployed to conduct educational workshops across Costa Rica.


“This project tackles the ignorance and lack of humanness issue that creates physical, linguistic and ongoing state-protected discrimination towards trans people by connecting trained trans and/or non-binary facilitators with employees in people-facing jobs working directly with the same population they will learn from,” Araya R explained. By directly involving the transgender community as educators, the program addresses employment barriers while furthering queer rights through grassroots activism.


Holistic Wellness Initiative for Inquiry for Justice

By Nichole Champion

Place of project: Portland, OR

Major: Psychology


Closer to our campus, Nichole Champion is spearheading the Holistic Wellness Initiative to support underserved high school students in Portland during the Inquiry for Justice summer program at Portland State University. This humane approach merges social justice learning with mindfulness, yoga, art therapy, and other holistic wellness practices.


“Engaging in the work of combating systemic oppression and advocating for social justice can be draining, emotionally challenging, and stressful.” Champion noted. “I aim to provide workshops and activities that support students in navigating these emotions (…) as they learn about and become advocates for social justice.”


Partnering with community organizations like Forge Hot Yoga and the Lewis & Clark Graduate Art Therapy program, the initiative will offer workshops on topics like food justice, mental health awareness, and environmentally-based mindfulness experiences. By fostering personal growth alongside academic learning, the program nurtures a generation of resilient leaders equipped to tackle systemic oppression.


The Center for Social Change would also like to thank the Nielson Grant committee members, Brian White, Jessica Sweeney, Lati Savadogo and Andrea Salyer for their hard work and dedication to reviewing all the amazing proposals we saw this year.


Congratulations Indigo Araya and Nichole Champion on their projects for social change. Their inspiring work exemplifies Lewis & Clark’s commitment to social change through community partnership and holistic student development.


All students are encouraged to consider applying for the 2025 Nielson Social Change Innovation Grant to bring your ideas for positive impact to life. Together, we can build a more just and equitable world.