On January 12th, Stephanie Jean-Charles, a 2009 CPL New Leaders Intern, passed away in the earthquake that struck Haiti. She was a beloved member of the CPL family and will be deeply missed.
Stephanie was born and raised in Port-au-Prince Haiti and was living in Charlottesville, VA where she attended the University of Virginia. As an undergraduate at the university, she majored in French and Foreign Affairs and was recently pursuing a Master's degree in Public Policy at the Batten School.
She was not only dedicated to her academics at UVA but a passionate member of the school community who was constantly finding ways to bring people to gether. For instance, she was a Peer Advisor at UVA, where she mentored 5 incoming Black students each year and helped them learn how to make the most of their first years at UVA. After her acceptance to the Batten School's master's in public policy program, she created the "Batten Buddies" program to pair up second-year MPP students to welcome and mentor incoming first-year MPP students.
Stephanie was also an active volunteer for Barack Obama's Presidential campaign and believed that Obama's presidency would benefit under represented communities and allow those who didn't have a voice to stand up and fight for what they believe is right.
Previously, Stephanie interned at the International Rescue Committee, which helps refugees relocate and find a home in the US.
In 2009, Stephanie applied to become a CPL New Leaders Intern.
In her application, she spoke of her desire to gain skills and knowledge to take back to her home country of Haiti: “I hope that the training I get as a CPL New Leader will allow me to frame sustainable and long-term policy in Haiti, a move that will then spill out into other areas that will help tackle the economic and political challenges that Haiti faces.”
On a more personal note, Stephanie wrote, “I don’t believe in watching injustice happen and sitting idly by … I was born and raised in Haiti, and everyday I was exposed to the rampant poverty before which I felt powerless…For the longest time, I attributed economic disparities to an inescapable destiny to which some were forcibly subject. I now realize that although I did not cause these disparities, I can be part of the solution.”
Through her internship at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and her active participation in CPL’s New Leaders Program last summer, Stephanie truly demonstrated her capacity to be part of the solution.
Some reflections and reactions from the CPL community:
Stephanie Jean-Charles was an admirable leader in her community and one of the sweetest people I met in Washington this summer. As with all the wonderful folks I got to know at CPL, I am glad our paths crossed. Since hearing the news, I have been trying to learn more about the efforts in Haiti and how I could contribute. May we grow stronger as a group and as individuals from this loss. Love, Annelisa Luong
Stephanie was a beautiful person and I really love the time we spent together. We had similar interests and talked about policy a lot. I will miss her very much. - Regan Byrd
Stephanie was probably one of the warmest people I have ever met and her loss will be felt for a long time. I don't even know what to say but I hope that we can all come together to honor her in some way. - Isha Vij
Stephanie was in my breakout group at the CPL session I attended last summer. She stood out, and we talked for quite a while afterward; I was deeply impressed with her. What a huge loss. - Katharine Kravetz, Professor at American University
It's been so hard thinking of Stephanie being gone, and seeing all the devastation, but one of the inspirational things has been seeing community groups from everywhere I've spent time organizing to provide assistance, especially here in New Orleans where memories of natural disast er are overwhelmingly salient. - Ashley Banks
I remembered the day Stephanie made a huge impact on me. Throughout the program, she and I would have discussions during the training sessions on a number of issues. The day I am referring to was right before the end of the program…I told a story of a part of my life and how it made the person I am today. When I finished I asked for feedback on how my presentation went. Stephanie was the first one to speak. She told me that where she comes from, no one really spoke about themselves as one person. Everyone spoke of their community as a whole. She also talked about the importance of community and of people. She really made me think. I thought about my community and the people I interact with everyday. I knew that my community was very important to me, but living in Washington you tend to get stuck in the 'Me' orientated state of mind. From that day on, I remembered those words she said... Marcus Grignon
Note: If you'd like to contribute any stories or memories about Stephanie, please send us an email.