Women’s Studies Graduate Student Wins $3.4 Million Grant to Help Children
An Oregon State University graduate student has won a $3.4 million grant for her work to provide services for children in poor neighborhoods of New York City.
Megan Barp came to Oregon State to study feminism and ended up working in low-income, high-crime neighborhoods in Brooklyn.
As part of her research for a master’s degree, Barp went to New York to interview women leaders of nonprofit organizations and learn about their management styles. After those interviews she received a job offer from the YWCA of the City of New York.
She remained a graduate student but accepted and found herself in the high-crime neighborhoods of Brownsville and Coney Island in Brooklyn. Brownsville is reported to have the highest crack cocaine use per capita in the nation.
Barp directs the YWCA’s youth services department, which provides academic enrichment, arts and cultural experiences, and fitness and health programs for children and teens.
Barp, who earned her undergraduate degree from the University of Nebraska, said she was raised in a small, conservative town in Nebraska and was eager to take on the challenge.
“I’ve always been the type to hit the ground running,” Barp said. “I like new experiences.”
She said she never experienced culture shock despite the contrast between her rural upbringing and the urban neighborhoods of New York.
“I knew as a White woman going into the all-Black neighborhood that I couldn’t come out and say ‘here’s how I can help you,”’ Barp said. “I had to show my respect for the communities and demonstrate that I had a lot to learn from them, as well. It helps that I love what I do.”
As part of her job, Barp works on fundraising. She wrote much of a grant proposal that went to the New York City Department of Youth and Community Development’s “Out of School Time” program to provide additional services to neighborhood youths.
The proposal was accepted for three years and $3.41 million — money that will boost the number of children served from 400 last year to 700 this year, ages five through high school.
“We partner with different public schools and bring them after-school and summer programs,” Barp said. “There is such a big-time lack of services for these kids, and there is so much poverty. A lot of them just need a safe place to grow.”
Oregon State women’s studies director Susan Shaw said Barp completed her master’s last fall, and they are planning to collaborate on a course that could send other OSU students to New York.
“Meghan is one of our stars,” Shaw said of her former student. “Sometimes people ask me what you can do with a women’s studies degree. She is a poster child for the potential of what is possible.”
— Associated Press
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