Meet the 2012–2013 Fellows
Taking part in The Quito Project, I traveled to Quito, Ecuador in the summer of 2012 with a group of ten University of Michigan undergraduates. At the Luis Raza Bolaños School, we hosted a summer remedial tutoring program for 2nd through 6th grade students living in a low-income community in Southern Quito. The mission of The Quito Project is to collaborate with local partners and develop evidence-based solutions that support and build capacity in health, education, and social sectors. My role in this project was to teach a class of 10 third grade students in Mathematics and Language Arts in the routine of a regular school day for 5 weeks, instructing entirely in Spanish. I provided one-on-one tutoring to all of my students while helping some children battle learning disabilities. Our work at the school is designed to help struggling students grasp the appropriate material for their level of education, while simultaneously bringing enthusiasm towards learning and education for young Ecuadorians.
This past summer I worked at the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory in Johannesburg, South Africa. The Centre was started in 2004 as an extension of the Nelson Mandela Foundation, which was created in 1999 by Mr. Mandela as he retired from the presidency. As an archival intern I worked to make collections and documents more accessible to the public by generating metadata, updating the database of speeches, and researching the start of an archival user guide. One of the most interesting and tangible results of my summer was a digital exhibit on Jack Swart, who was Mr. Mandela’s prison warder at Victor Verster up until Mr. Mandela’s release in 1990. To create the exhibit I helped curate Jack Swart’s digitized collection, select documents to include, interview Mr. Swart, and write up the narrative text. Working on this project and, more broadly, at the Centre of Memory was an extremely rewarding experience. It provided me the opportunity to work in an archive focused on pursuing social justice and to make more of their documents publicly available.
I spent this summer in northeastern Bosnia and Herzegovina as an international teaching fellow with Bosnia Initiatives for Local Development, a youth-orientated educational non-profit active in the Tuzla-Doboj region. I helped implement two summer institutes offering free courses in English Language, Business Skills, and Information Technology to over two hundred and fifty high school and university students and local professionals. I returned to the region again in January to teach at the inaugural Doboj Winter Institute, which was arranged by a successful student petition born from the enthusiasm of our summer institutes.
This summer I was in Dhaka, Bangladesh and Kolkata, India, two major cities in an area where millions are threatened by groundwater contamination of arsenic. I learned Bengali, the language spoken in this area and met with researchers at six universities and three different non-governmental organizations who are working on arsenic mitigation projects in Bangladesh and India. I visited over 20 different installations of various arsenic removal technologies and was able to learn about the successes and remaining challenges. These experiences will help me as I pursue my Ph.D. in Environmental Engineering, researching a novel technology to remove arsenic from drinking water. I will now be able to direct my research towards questions that are relevant to field application in Bangladesh and India and collaborate with groups who are already active in arsenic mitigation.
I am a native of Detroit and a senior at the University of Michigan in the Honors program for Afroamerican and African Studies. As a Spirit of Detroit Award recipient, I dedicate my academic research as well as professional and community service involvement to better understanding urban and social inequality and working to fight against it. Thanks to the support of the Raoul Wallenberg International Summer Travel Fellowship, I was able to participate in the Pedagogy of Action program in South Africa in May 2012. Sponsored by the Department of Afroamerican and African Studies and led by Dr. Nesha Haniff, the program engaged me in the work of HIV-capacity building as I taught an oral methodology in HIV prevention at several primary schools, universities, research institutions, and community organizations throughout South Africa. This experience allowed me to return home with an enhanced perspective of what it means to be engaged in community- and self-empowerment, further inspiring my own passion for civic engagement in my hometown of Detroit.