KSC student to receive Outstanding Women of New Hampshire Award

One trip was all it took for 21-year-old senior, Johanna DeBari, to realize and understand her calling.

While busy with clubs like Mentors in Violence Prevention and the Holocaust and Genocide Awareness Club in her senior year, DeBari still makes time to establish positive change—here, and elsewhere in the world.

Interest in Rwanda and Bosnia has led DeBari to majors in sociology and holocaust and genocide studies and her minor in anthropology, as well as being awarded an Outstanding Women of New Hampshire Award.

After two nominations, DeBari will be presented the award at the Outstanding Women of New Hampshire Awards Ceremony on March 26, 2014.

There are four categories for the OWNH Awards this year, which includes a new KSC student category. Some of the qualifications for the award include contributions to leadership, advocacy and volunteering and community service. The theme for this year’s award is, “Women of Character, Courage, and Commitment.”

Education Professor, Dr. Len Fleischer, was one of the people to nominate DeBari for the award. After DeBari took Fleischer’s honors senior seminar class, Narrative Identity and Leadership: A Vision and Task, Fleischer said he knew DeBari was capable of great things. “She was able to reflect on her own identity as a woman and the identity of other women in Rwanda and in Bosnia,” Fleischer said.

Portrait by Brian Cantore / Photo Editor: Senior and sociology and holocaust and genocide studies major, Johanna DeBari, is awarded the Outstanding Women of New Hampshire Award.

Portrait by Brian Cantore / Photo Editor: Senior and sociology and holocaust and genocide studies major, Johanna DeBari, is awarded the Outstanding Women of New Hampshire Award.

According to Fleischer, students in the class worked on a research project which allowed the student to look into his or herself as a person and look back on their lives. According to DeBari, the course tore into who each person was and ripped apart old wounds to dig deeper into the lives of the students. “There were some rough days in that class where I didn’t think I could do it [the project],” DeBari said.

The end of the course resulted in a paper that, for DeBari, according Fleischer, was 100 pages long looking into the horrors of rape and genocide in Rwanda.

“I mentored her very closely in the class,” Fleischer said, “She wrote an extraordinary paper as her emergence as an independent adult woman.”

Fleischer mentioned he would also work with her to publish her paper.

It would not be the first publication for DeBari, as her article, “Reconciliation in Rwanda: Is It Really Working?” was published in the Council of Public Liberal Arts Colleges journal in the spring of 2012, DeBari said. According to DeBari, the article focused on the Gacaca, a community-based judicial system in Rwanda, and the Ingando Training, re-education camps where people are taught a government-approved history.

On top of her research a trip to Rwanda, DeBari also visited Bosnia with members of the KSC Honors Program in May 2012, and studied for one semester abroad in Poland. “Both experiences allowed me to be comfortable with being uncomfortable,” DeBari said. According to DeBari, her trip to Poland benefitted her holocaust and genocide studies major because of the history of the land.

After her trip to Rwanda the summer before her sophomore year, DeBari said she was a changed woman. “It was truly amazing,” DeBari said, “I saw things that I never thought I’d have the opportunity to see.”

Both trips to Rwanda and Bosnia allowed DeBari to work with Peace-building Institutes. One was a part of a non-governmental organization called Never Again Rwanda.

According to Fleischer, DeBari had leadership qualities and had made a large impact and many contributions to the campus and community, and for those reasons he nominated her for the award. “She is an outstanding woman who is doing outstanding things for the world at a very young age,” Fleischer said.

DeBari’s fiance, Jack White, said he wants to support her in any way he can throughout the nomination and award process.

“She’s able to give so much comfort to people who have seen the worst side of humanity,” White said. “Johanna is an amazing person, so I can’t say I was really surprised [when she received the award],” White said.

White and DeBari have known each other since DeBari was a freshman in high school.

“She’s always willing to put people ahead of herself,” White said, “She’s a truly beautiful person.”  White described her as vibrant, caring and loving. “She has completely mastered the art of understanding.”

Senior Chloe Edmonds has been friends with DeBari since their second semester sophomore year.

Edmonds shared that the two met when Edmonds was the president of the Holocaust and Genocide Awareness Club and DeBari was the vice president of the club.

Edmonds said she was with DeBari when DeBari received the call about the award. “I screamed,” Edmonds said, “We both screamed.”

Edmonds described DeBari as charismatic and bubbly and expressed there was no better person to win the honor.

“It’s about who makes a presence in the state of New Hampshire, and she does that,” Edmonds said.

According to DeBari, she had no idea this award would be a possibility for her. “This has been a very humbling experience,” DeBari said, “I’m always the person who likes to shower love on others and to have this experience has been very different for me.”

“Without certain people and certain professors,” DeBari said, “I wouldn’t be the person who I am today.”


Rebecca Marsh can be contacted at rmarsh@keene-equinox.com

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