For Spring Break, I had the opportunity to travel to Charlotte to work with a group of 20 students on Education Advocacy. Some people may be reading this and will be thinking, “Weird…why didn’t you go to the beach instead? Why didn’t you hang out with your friends for the one week you have off school?”
Why would I go on a trip to a random city with a bunch of random people to advocate for a human rights topic that I know nothing about?
The answer is simple: why wouldn’t I go? I chose this trip because I knew that there wasn’t really anything else I would be doing this week. At least, something productive. Yes, we got up at 6:30am every morning to drive to schools and work with underprivileged children who drove us nuts every day, and we would reflect for 2-3 hours at night as a group over this social justice issue only to go to bed at midnight or later. Not to mention that we ate Easy Mac and ham sandwiches every day and had one shower for 20 people that only poured out cold water.
But, let me just say something: it was so worth it.
I’ve experienced so many things in life in which my friends and peers refer to as, “The thing that changed my life,” like GHP. I’ve always stood strongly against this statement because I don’t think one event can change your life, but rather change is a process. However, this trip sort of inspired me to fix my definition: change is still a process, but it’s the multiple events that we experience that make that change happen. I can honestly say that this trip was inspirational and was a big portion of that change in my life, and I will be forever grateful that I was able to serve others.
A lot of people refer to “service” as something we must put on our resumes to make ourselves look selfless, when we can actually have the opportunity to be selfless. Every day, I would shadow an elementary school teacher and help them in their classrooms. Some of these teachers were overjoyed to see me help out and walk into the classroom with hope for these kids, and some of these teachers didn’t even know I was showing up and saw me as an extra responsibility that the administration gave them. It is a common assumption to say that we were working with underprivileged children, mainly students who were of the minor ethnicities. And no doubt, these kids were not as disciplined as any of us would like them to be.
It was extremely difficult to teach some of these kids basic things that they should already know, like helping a fourth grader memorize his time tables or getting a first grader to even listen to what the teacher was saying. After this trip, I have this very newfound admiration and respect for teachers, because I’ve never thought of the amount of discipline and headaches they endure each day. I worked with teachers who would spend an extra 2 hours after school tutoring kids without pay because they cared. But, I also worked with teachers who would yell at students and call them the N-word, not because they didn’t know how to teach, but rather because they had already given up.
That’s the one thing I absolutely hate about the education system: these kids are told that they are poor and that they don’t have a future; that’s why they act out. That’s why they don’t try and that’s why they don’t care. It hurt to be told that I didn’t know what they were going through, because they were right and everything they said to me was so true. I have a home and I have always known where my next meal was coming from.
But, like in anything else, there was always that shimmer of hope; I can’t say that the education system will be perfect one day or anywhere close to being perfect after seeing re-segregation occur, these schools being prime example. It was nice to hear a little girl in a rowdy classroom tell me that she was transferring to a private school the following year and saying that she was glad she will finally have the opportunity to learn something. I felt reassured when I announced my major (Criminal Justice) in front of all these seventh and eighth graders and overhear a boy turn to his friend and say, “She’s going to come back and save us.”
That’s why I’m here. Service is love made visible. I went on this trip to impact the lives of children in schools, but I had no idea how much they would impact me.