Larkin Brown

What was your class year and major/minor?

Class of 2010, I was an Environmental Studies major with a focus in policy and a Latin American Studies major.

What is your current job, and city of residence?

I currently live in Somerville, MA and I am the Program Development Associate and East Boston Program Coordinator for Soccer Without Borders

Did your academic or extracurricular experience at Bowdoin influence how you are involved in communities now? If yes, how so?

A whole host of my academic and extracurricular experiences at Bowdoin influenced how I am involved in communities now.

People most naturally connect my experience playing soccer at Bowdoin with what I do now, which makes sense since my organization is called Soccer Without Borders. While the Bowdoin Women's Soccer team was an integral part of my growth at Bowdoin, I would argue that my participation in the women's acapella group, Bellamafia, and my four year stint working at Moulton Dining hall, were just as fulfilling and important in learning about harmony, team work and community. Through the lens of team, I am able to see each community I am a part of as an interconnected support system. A community finds strength in its individuals, but the ability of those individuals to work together and to grow together, empowers a community to be much more.

I have always been drawn to Spanish language for many reasons, but both language and soccer are ways to communicate across cultures. My love for people and knowing their story has been a driving factor in my language acquisition.

I loved both of my majors, partially for the content and partially because I had the most amazing professors. You cannot find professors like Allen Wells, Matthew Klingle, Nadia Celis, Krista Van Vleet, Susan Kaplan, and John Lichter at every institution. These are professors who love their work and their passion for it is contagious. The three classes that affected me most during my time at Bowdoin were, Latinos/Latinas in the US taught by visiting professor Mariana Cruz, Building Healthy Communities taught by Dewitt John, and Environmental Equality and Justice taught by Joe Bandy. Each professor honed my ability to look at a community's landscape, its susceptibility to natural disaster, its access to resources, the policies that exist and understand why all of those elements contribute to the culture and often times cause injustice or inequality.

I now use those skills to identify what youth are excluded from their communities, and how to empower them by helping them see resources and means of support in their community and by giving them a personal toolkit to overcome obstacles. I worked with Soccer Without Borders in Nicaragua for 3 years growing the program alongside an amazing Nicaraguan staff, which seeks to empower girls through sport, giving them a toolkit to overcome obstacles to growth, inclusion and personal success. While my heart still storms ahead, passionate about girls and women's issues internationally, I recently assumed an administrative role at our office in Boston and work at one of our domestic programs. The domestic programs work with refugee, asylee and immigrant youth, providing them a safe space to engage in a sport that they feel passionate about, while they meet peers who share similar experiences. The supportive team atmosphere allows newcomer youth to learn a new language more quickly, since they are in a non-threatening, low-pressure environment where their peers are having fun and also learning.

In what ways have you been engaged with the community since graduating from Bowdoin (both professionally and personally)?

Professionally, I have been overjoyed to work with the Bowdoin Women's Soccer Team and coaches, Maren Rojas and Brianne Weaver, in fundraising efforts for Soccer Without Borders. I have also had the joy and pleasure of working along side other Bowdoin alums in various capacities in the organization. Alums, Kelly Pope and Ellery Gould, as well as past coach Maren Rojas, all spent significant time in Nicaragua with me in the past couple of years.

I have been back to Bowdoin a couple of times since graduating for Women's Soccer Reunions and a couple graduations. I am also a volunteer for the alumni fund and I look forward to my 5-year reunion in 2015!

What's been your favorite or most meaningful experience in public service since you graduated?

I had the great pleasure of working with the SWB team on a US State Department grant in 2013 that permitted the organization an Exchange in three parts. During the first part, a group of post-collegiate, NCAA athletes traveled down to Nicaragua to play the Women's Nicaraguan National Soccer team and replicate portions of the SWB international program in neighboring cities of Granada and Managua. In the second phase, a group of Nicaraguans, involved in women's sports initiatives, was selected and traveled to the US to participate in a number of different professional development seminars, including but not limited to workshops at Dartmouth College and UNH. Finally, in the third phase, the Nicaraguans who traveled to the US created their own projects to promote the growth of opportunities for women in sport in Nicaragua. Their projects were approved by the US State Department, and then implemented by the Nicaraguans once they returned home. The result was tremendous and powerful.

Have any unexpected challenges or difficulties related to this work popped up along the way? If so, what did you learn from these challenges?

Challenges are always present in sustainable development work, whether domestic or abroad. Financial challenges are always the most prevalent for most small but growing non-profits. There are also challenges in measuring success, in ensuring authenticity, in developing efficient systems, etc.
At Soccer Without Borders we value a process-oriented approach, and I have learned that no challenge is too big if you have patience and a smart team that is willing to go the extra mile for the enrichment of the organization and the populations you serve.

What advice do you have for students who want to work for the common good after Bowdoin?

Find something you are passionate about, get active, and pour your energy into that worthwhile cause, but never lose sight of being a student. Curiosity and a thirst for knowledge will make you a more effective change maker!