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Saturday, August 17, 2013

Creating Global Citizens in a Digital Age

A few years ago I volunteered to mentor a student club, America 4 Africa, or A4A for short. I wish that I could say that this was because I was passionate about raising money for mosquito bed nets, but I confess that I signed up as a way to clock hours during my graduate school internship.

The following year, I signed up again but this time it was because I was asked by students. If it weren't for the fact that they reminded me that every 30 seconds a child dies from malaria and the other teacher sponsor was in dire need of help, I would have opted out. But something tugged at my heart. Maybe it was guilt. Whatever the reason, I lasted a second year.

By the 3rd year, my graduate studies behind me, I continued to sponsor A4A but with a change of heart. Since our campus had moved to a digital model, stacks of notebook paper and other supplies had built up in supply closets throughout our campus. As a service learning project, our A4A kids decided that they wanted to send school supplies to a middle school in Kenya. And the project took off!

Our Coppell Middle School North teachers ran with it! Notebook paper, pencils, rulers, markers, construction paper and about every other imaginable school supply landed in a trunk. One of our parents went twice a year to Kenya and volunteered to take the trunk with her. The students took donations to raise the $50 needed to send the trunk overseas.

As part of this mission, America 4 Africa, set up a facebook account. We marveled how students who didn't have money for a pencil were able to be on facebook until we learned that internet cafes dotted the continent of Africa. Students, rich and poor, were able to go online!

Months past, and our efforts were rewarded. One of our A4A students was monitoring our facebook when he yelled, "Mrs. Dollar...they told us thank you!"

I bolted to the computer and what I saw made my mouth drop open and my heart race! On the screen, seemingly bigger than life were five students holding up construction paper we sent with the words: Thank You America 4 Africa drawn with colorful markers. Their faces spoke volumes!

As the new  year begins, I am thrilled to continue being an A4A sponsor, but not out of a sense of obligation but because I have seen with my own eyes how a simple act of kindness can impact the world.

Confession Reflection:
  •  What are the benefits of teaching global citizenship to our students?
  • Why is it important to empower students to find ways to help others?
  • How does service learning build the capacity for showing empathy in students?

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