"Do you realize that your summer vacation is longer than your entire stay in Cape Town?"
On our last class this news was shocking. After having gotten so used to "Cape Town time" and feeling like I could do anything not only was the reality of home slowly sinking in but after a semester of wonderful opportunities and the time of my life I was struggling how I would make the summer just as meaningful. Marita always reminded us that all we have in this world are time, energy, and resources and those three things kept coming back to me in various ways as was thinking how I would spend my summer. The time seemed daunting because I had learned how much change and insight can occur in what felt like forever on some days and a blink of an eye on others.
A little over two months has passed since we've been home and not a day goes by that I do not think about Cape Town. It's crazy how little things can remind you of a night filled with music and fun or how preparing a meal can bring back memories of Braais and kitchen drama. Coming home has been one of those exercises of taking the good with the bad. I've been seeking the independence that I had in Cape Town while realizing that I have no money to support myself. As many of us have shared, living at home can be both great and frustrating. Aside from that, since I've been home I started working as a substitute teacher in the Westford Public Schools. It has been a privilege to compare the stark differences in resources and opportunities between this district, my home town, and Cape Town. I learned a lot about the challenges suburban schools face and after my initial disappointment and frustration with the endless shelves of books I was able to appreciate this. I was proud of where I grew up and happy that the students could benefit and flourish. Although some days I found myself lost in the classroom looking for markers or folders and I was irritated at what felt like excess stuff, I enjoyed the comparison I have been able to make. It shows me that everything comes with its unique challenges and strengths but also confirmed that adequate resources in schools are necessary. This perspective will carry through my summer job at the BELL Foundation. BELL serves students in the Boston Public Schools who are at risk of not passing and being promoted to the next grade. I'll be working with these students at an intensive summer enrichment program to help curb the learning loss which occurs during the summer. Once again, I find myself back in city schools. I love it there. In a school where students don't have text books and most rely on the government sponsored food each day I'm ready to help these learners thrive. I am excited to take all the skills I have been acquiring and apply them. Without my experience at City Mission my perspective on this situation would not be as clear or determined.
As I think about Cape Town, the changes and challenges I could talk about are endless. From being a smarter consumer, to recognizing gender inequalities, and understanding communities I've gained knowledge that will guide me forever. That is why when I got home I applied and was accepted to the Masters in Public Administration Fast-Track program at UConn. This program will allow me to recognize community issues and apply realistic solutions to improving schools, businesses, and other organizations in the area. I am sure that I will take the skills I learned in Veron's class to critically evaluate struggling organizations and identify the proper next steps toward change. I hope to study more regarding race and policy through the lens of education policy and the achievement gap which I became more interested in through Marita's class. I am excited to apply what I know about international education to my interest in domestic education policy. This is an exciting time!
While I could go on and on about this I must say, some of the best parts of this summer so far have no been my Introduction to Public Policy class or applying to graduate programs. I've loved sleeping late on the weekends and especially Dunkin Donuts iced coffee! When I wake up and get voice messages from my students I smile for hours. Those messages are the things that encourage me to get up and keep working to educate and serve. I have enjoyed continuing relationships that I built in South Africa and growing the relationships I have back home. I have been able to share my passion with my friends and family and also have fun taking trips to DC and Boston, rollerskating, listening to country music, watching the fireworks on the 4th of July and enjoying the summer! So I guess, in two months I've made the best use of my time as I can and each day hasomething meaningful. Although... I still miss the colorful, wonderful, spontaneous, loving, bright, beautiful Cape Town and especially Table Mountain and minibus taxis.