March 29, 2010

AGYA Staff Gears Up to Welcome Student Volunteers from Vancouver, Canada, the University of Southern California and Ohio State University!

This summer, as part of our service-learning volunteer trips initiative, AGYA will welcome several student volunteers from Canada and two top universities in North America: Ohio State University and the University of Southern California.

These ambitious college students will spend 4 weeks living and working at the AGYA Community Learning Center in Uganda. They will teach daily classes and workshops at AGYA's Community Center, volunteer at an elementary school and a local orphanage, undergo intensive Luganda language training, participate in cultural excursions, and collaborate with student leaders from Makerere University, Uganda's premiere 4-year degree granting institution of higher education.

Focused on cultural exchange, leadership development, relationship-building, skills training and education, AGYA Co-Founders, Divinity Barkley and Abraham Matovu, aim to encourage the student volunteers to learn and develop through action-oriented service that meets community needs. The children and youth in Uganda benefit, not only from the skill-sharing that takes place, but also from cross-cultural interaction and dialogue with diverse groups of people.

Last year, nine college students from USC traveled to Uganda during Summer 2009 through AGYA's strategic partnership with USC student group RAYSE (Rise of African Youth through Self-Empowerment) and the USC Volunteer Center. The students, who came from all different backgrounds and academic majors, taught a variety of workshops including: dance, song-writing, computer training, film and photography.

This year, nine more students from USC will share their time and talent by participating in the 2nd Annual USC Alternative Summer Break Program. Through the leadership of Hawa and Nasra Mire of Point Youth Media, one of AGYA's core partners, several student activists from Canada will travel to Uganda, teach a series of photography and media arts workshops. Keischa Irons, a graduate student from Ohio State University will also join AGYA this summer.

Profiled here, all of these students represent the essence of AGYA's service-learning volunteer trips initiative!

Keischa Irons, 23
Graduate Student, Ohio State University

Keischa works as a Graduate Research Associate with the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity. She received a Bachelor of Arts in Africana Studies from the University of Cincinnati 2008 and is currently pursuing a Master’s degree in City and Regional Planning at the Ohio State University.

Her academic interests include cultural planning, economic development and community planning. Keischa previously served with AmeriCorps of Ohio at the Cincinnati Youth Collaborative providing research in the mentoring department.

In Uganda, Keischa plans to facilitate a public-speaking workshop that aims to build confidence and self-expression while giving youth the skills to tap into, and share, a range of emotions which in the end is therapeutic.

Benny Etienne, 20

Benny was born in Port-Au-Prince, Haiti but currently lives in Vancouver, BC, Canada. She speaks French and English and holds very close ties to her native and adoptive countries. She is currently studying to become a professional film editor. Benny loves the art of storytelling and believes that film editors are the storytellers of the 21st Century.Traveling is Benny's other passion, and her goal is to travel at least once every year for the rest of her life. She is extremely excited to travel to Uganda and to spend time and collaborate with the youth at AGYA. She has never visited the African continent, so this will be a unique and enriching experience for her. She looks forward to sharing her film and storytelling skills with other youth and learning more about Ugandan society and culture during her stay.

Nasra Mire, 24
Point Youth Media Co-Founder & Workshop Facilitator

Nasra is a 24 year old free spirit with many hidden talents. She is the other co-founder of Point Youth Media. She has spent 2 years in Langara University in Canada pursing a graphic design degree. She is currently working for Free the Children and the City of Vancouver as a youth developer. She enjoys all forms of 2D and 3D arts and other creative medium. She serves on the Board of Education for Vancouver Foundation and works with KINEX, traveling all over BC as a facilitator. She plays an active role in the Vancouver community and is known for her random comments and quick laughter. Nasra has traveled throughout East Africa including Uganda, Tanzania, and Kenya.

Nicholas "Nick" Guay-Ross

Nicholas Guay-Ross is a third year chemistry student at Simon Fraser University. He currently works as a lifeguard and swimming instructor to earn extra money for school. According to Nick, water is his "thing." He has a huge interest in all kinds of fish, and loves being outside in the snow or rain, which is pretty good considering that he lives in Vancouver, BC, Canada a place where it rains most of the year. Rain or shine, outside is where Nick wants to be. He has traveled the world going to places in Europe, East Asia, and all over North America. He is eager to experience Africa, and meet the people that make AGYA the amazing place that it is!

Parisa Azadi, 22

Parisa is a freelance photojournalist specializing in reportage and portraiture. With a passion for the arts and story telling, she started working as an actor at an early age. Ultimately it was through her experience as an actor that she discovered her passion for photography. Parisa's focus is to document the cultures, events and people that shape our world. She worked extensively in New Orleans on a on-going series documenting the culture and music in the city. Parisa also spent time in Bayamo, Cuba where she lived and worked in an art school for children ages 10-15. She strives to capture the essence of the moment and to tell compelling stories that evoke thought and emotion.

Hawa Mire, 22

Hawa is originally from Somalia, grew up in Surrey and is currently residing in Vancouver. She is the co-founder of Point Youth Media, a youth run and led grassroots organization determined to make a difference in the way youth are viewed in the global community through the use of art. Hawa was recently awarded the City of Vancouver youth award for her dedication and involvement within the Vancouver youth community. Hawa does extensive work within the African community as both an advocate and a participant. As a racialized young woman herself, she enjoys getting involved in programs and projects that allow her to use her own experiences as a teaching and learning mechanism. Hawa strongly advocates for youth run and led leadership programs, and believes in the power of youth voice.

Krystie Babalos, 22

Krystie Babalos is part of the "Me to We" Leadership Team in Vancouver, Canada. Since joining Me to We & Free The Children, she has traveled around the world, from British Columbia to China & India, working with youth to develop their inner social activist. In her spare time, you can find Krystie painting abstract works of art, doing hot yoga and hiking the beautiful mountains of Vancouver.

Marcus Cheng, 22
4th Year Student, University of Southern California (USC)

Marcus was born in San Francisco and grew up in Hong Kong. He is a 4th year architecture student at USC. In Spring 2010, Marcus studied abroad in Italy. He is interested in architecture, design, sports and food.

Nicole Broom, 20
Junior, USC

Nicole is a Sociology and Spanish double major at the University of Southern California. She grew up in Chicago and discovered her passion for education during her years as a dance teacher and elementary school tutor. Nicole teaches at the Camino Nuevo Charter Academy Math Intervention Program. She plans to apply to graduate school programs in International Educational Policy to pursue her goal of working to equalize the quality of education systems around the world, particularly in developing nations in Africa and Latin America.

Hayley Paige Pappas, 20
Sophomore, USC

Hayley was born and raised in Newport Beach, California. She is a Sophomore majoring in Communication. She grew up singing, acting, and dancing and spent her childhood performing in musicals and acting in commercials. This will be Hayley's second trip to Uganda to work with AGYA. She participated in the 2009 alternative summer break trip, and decided to return this year in a leadership role. Hayley is an Executive Board Member of RAYSE (Rise of African Youth through Self-Empowerment), the student group that helps organize the Uganda volunteer trip.

Natalia Calderon, 21
Junior, USC

Natalia is a third year student at USC. She is enrolled in an 8 year medical program and plans to go to medical school to be a doctor. Calderon's parents were born in Costa Rica, so Spanish is her first language. She also speaks English and some French. She loves singing, traveling, reading, photography, and poetry. She enjoys learning about people and their life stories as well as their family history and meeting new people everyday. She is very excited to go to Africa and meet all of the AGYA youth members!

Lindsey Patin, 19
Sophomore, USC

Lindsey is a Sophomore majoring in International Relations and Economics. She is the Co-President of the International Relations Undergraduate Association, and is active in TIRP (teaching International Relations Program) and JEP (Joint Educational Project). Lindsey has traveled to Mexico, the Bahamas, Canada, Austria, Czech Republic, Poland, and England. Lindsey enjoys reading, shopping, general outdoor activities (hiking, kayaking, camping, etc), and also making movies!

Jillian Chou, 22
Senior, USC

Jillian will graduate from USC in 2010 with a Bachelor's degree in International Relations. Jill will join the Teach for America corps after graduation and hopes to contribute to the movement to eliminate the achievement gap in American public schools. She is from Denver, Colorado and enjoys dancing. This will be Jill's second trip to Uganda. She participated in the 2009 alternative summer break trip, and decided to return this year in a leadership role. Jill is the Co-President of RAYSE (Rise of African Youth through Self-Empowerment), the student group that helps organize the Uganda volunteer trip.

Jordan Viera, 19
Freshman, USC

Jordan is double-majoring in political science and social science education with a minor in cultural anthropology at USC. Jordan spent much of his childhood in the California mountain community of Three Rivers, which is located about five miles away from Sequoia National Park, home to the world’s largest trees. This is where Jordan developed his love for learning about the world and the people in it. Jordan, a devout Christian, feels that nothing in the world is coincidental; everything has a purpose and serves to bring us closer to the intangible through some physical shape or form. Life is what we make of it, and Jordan strives everyday to help make his life meaningful and fulfilling.

Amber Monet Hogans, 21
Junior, USC

Amber is currently working hard earn to earn an Accounting degree and a CPA license upon graduation from USC in 2011. After gaining experience from a public accounting firm, Amber plans to attend graduate school where she will work towards earning a master’s degree in business entertainment or accounting, or some other closely related business discipline. Amber is an active leader on USC's campus, serving as the Assistant Director for the Black Student Assembly (BSA), the President for National Association of Black Accountants, Inc. (NABA), and the President of a Christian sisterhood Sisters in Spirit (SIS). Community service is very important to Amber who not only helps tutor younger students but also aims to help youth understand their self-worth and realize that they can do anything with hard-work and self-motivation.

Hannah Wasserman, 20
Sophomore, USC

Hannah is a Sophomore in the USC School of Policy, Planning and Development. She is is from Sacramento, California. She has an older brother, an older sister and a cocker spaniel named Lucy. Her name is a palindrome; it can be spelled the same way forwards and backwards (Hannah/hannaH). She loves to watch movies - her favorites are Fight Club and Zoolander (if she had to pick only two). She was a springboard diver and also dabbled in Lacrosse. She plays board games on a regular basis. In high school, she was famous for her baking abilities - she even invented her own recipe of cookies! Her favorite thing to do is go on adventures; she loves to hike, go to new places, etc. She loves every kind of music (even country)! She is in a sorority at USC called Theta. She lives in the house with 64 other girls which is very fun/crazy/hectic. Most importantly, she is so excited to go to Uganda this summer!!!