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S Mojdeh Stoakley

Illinois - Bright Start - Direct Sold Plan

"I'm honored and excited to accept an opportunity to study and do research with scholars at 2 universities, 3 organizations, and a National Health Service (NHS) psychiatrist in the United Kingdom.

I know it sounds wild - but I have until July 4th to deliver the following to the UK visa office: bank statements that match full tuition for the Master's program, 9 months of estimated living costs, the NHS surcharge, and visa application fees - totaling $46k. Anything above this amount will help me purchase books, bus rides, accessibility tools/software, medication, etc.

Scroll to the bottom for the "GIVE" button!

I've worked globally with artists, scholars, practitioners, teachers, universities, & learners as young as 5 and as old as can write or move! Most recently, presenting on poetry & trauma management at an NHS Conference for Psychiatrists. This change in how much time I'll be in the UK compared to Chicago and elsewhere will require a student visa!

To answer the looming question: Yes, I know about loans.
Let's time travel together! 15 years ago, amid mass layoffs/replacement of employees, preferring contractors to cut costs, I finished my Bachelor's in the 2008's recession, so I was a *contractor* Teaching Artist, a *contractor* Education Director 2x, a *contractor* Poet, *contract-ish* Research Assistant & Intervention Facilitator, etc.

I will not receive loan forgiveness in my qualified sectors because contractor time doesn't count. These loans are a looming debt compounded by the COVID-19 lockdown. I lost a year's worth of lucrative classroom and performance gigs, didn't qualify for unemployment, busted my shoulder, and got covid - I'm still healing from both. And yet, "Still I Rise!"

Raising $46k will help me get an accelerated 1yr Master's at a fraction of the cost of a similar 2-3 year US degree. This program allows me to start the research, which will feed into my doctorate! My Ph.D. proposal is already approved (pending completion of the Master's with high marks - I'm confident!). So, I'll have my doctorate in under 3 years!

What will I do (with that visa) in these 3 years? Well, the same thing I've done every night - social and cultural work - but with graphs and stuff!

Art, education, community advocacy, policy, scholarship, and public/community health practices are all woven into the same tapestry of my concerns and contributions to society and culture.

Early in lockdown, my first worry was students who usually get all meals at school; I remembered what it felt like to be a food and housing-insecure child. Soon I was co-leading an "Artist-Made Mutual Aid" project. We activated artists to creatively make, collect, and distribute anything community members expressed a need for. Whether handmade masks, kids' art kits, hot meals, rides, re-homing pets, fundraising for health-impacted folks, or relief funds, we did our best to meet requests. #ArtistsWeGetTheJobDone

A few years prior, Chicago won the bid to be one of 5 rotating cities to host the world's largest poetry festival annually. The local directors stepped down on short notice, and the career poet in me knew 600 eager poets from across the world would arrive in my city in less than a year - expecting 100 events in 6 days. So the career organizer in me agreed to pick up the torch. Being an artist in America is a gamble with your wellness until you "make it." Add 6 days of high-stress competitions on low-to-no food for many participants - and you can be sure several poets get sick or are otherwise vulnerable every year in pursuit of one career-making win.

The public-health worker in me decided I could set precedence; I launched the largest Mental Health and Wellness initiative for any festival of its size. The festival's first year of 100% wheelchair accessibility! The first year of a cross-discipline roster of crisis responders and conflict resolution experts! The first year we provided 6 days of food! We had a sober and recovery space, and among many other things, daily HIV testing was absolutely A FIRST (art festival babies happen! So why not ask my public health family to come through?)! All of this without touching the slim budget for the production, leveraging every local relationship to pull in well over $30k of sponsored resources and professional services.

The feedback directly from participants, practitioners, community members, and artist-advocates alike was overwhelming for both initiatives.

During the pandemic, folks had time during job furloughs/layoffs to do all we could for the community. As we've returned to 'normalcy,' there's a continued need for mutual aid but a steep dropoff of capacity. We're encouraged to do this work as pure service, reflecting how devalued everyday home and care workers are (primarily women). Who aids the aids?

Similarly, as many arts organizers know, often, our labor is compensated based on a percentage of profit after the event is over - which presumes the owning organization is financially solvent.

Despite 29 legacy years for the poetry festival, I spent the last month learning what other host city Directors already knew; it was an invisible, inequitable, and unsustainable role. The Oakland Director and I shared the announcement of retiring the festival until funding can be managed appropriately and equitably. The festival was sustained for years primarily upon the unpaid labor of women like me, who figured out too late that we'd been misused, and it didn't have to be this way.

Genuine care, joy, and community building occurred in both projects. If we'd had the resources and collaborators to assess and evaluate our successes, look at gaps, outline solutions, and codify teachable strategies for shaping equitable versions of these initiatives. We could design and launch numerous creative cultural and social projects on healthy and sustainable grounds.
I can use my Master's to create and codify best practices and cross-discipline guidelines for evaluating and designing healthy and sustainable creative community projects and education programs to make it easier for social and cultural workers in the future.

Any further delays in my education hinder my access to resources and mentorship to lead new scholarship. I have unique multi-discipline experience to pair with my research, which I aim to translate into resources and development for teachers, parents, artists, community organizers, and public health and mental health practitioners who intend to work in a trauma-informed or healing-centered way.

Will you help me complete my education and apply for my visa before the deadline?! Click on the "GIVE" button below.

If you'd like to be in touch with me or learn more about the work I'm doing, feel free to see more of my work at http://direct.me/themojdeh

PS. Lastly, I'd be short of the full truth if I didn't admit that I also feel really honored to represent Chicago and my org Surviving the Mic, as Co-Executive Director and Research & Innovation Officer. The collaborations already secured in the UK will help establish StM's Trauma-Informed Academic Working Group and a London chapter that will serve countless survivors of violence for years to come.

STATES THAT OFFER TAX INCENTIVES FOR CONTRIBUTING to 529 education savings plans are Illinois, Arizona, Arkansas, Kansas, Maine, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. Look up your state's benefits or talk to a tax professional."

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Meli Lame contributed $25.00 on 6/4/2023
Sheena Shukla. contributed $100.00 on 6/10/2023
Amanda Rose contributed $125.00 on 6/7/2023
Noa Fields contributed $100.00 on 6/8/2023
Adam Gottlieb contributed $36.00 on 6/8/2023
Ardythe Morrow contributed $500.00 on 6/9/2023
Heather Luxion contributed $150.00 on 7/3/2023