Global service-learning provides students with an opportunity to learn while working on a meaningful volunteer project that addresses an authentic community need in a foreign country. By immersing ourselves in another culture to volunteer for positive social change, young people will be better prepared to work within our city of Newburgh to make it a better place.
Through Global to Local, the 2017 cohort of fifteen Excelsior Academy students volunteered for ten days of service at Casa Victoria in Quito, Ecuador. Our high school students worked with the sixty children who attend Casa Victoria’s afterschool program, where they are fed a hot meal and provided with homework help and a safe place to spend their afternoons. Our students taught basic coding using robots and tablets that they fundraised to donate, and worked on literacy skills using books that they contributed to Casa Victoria’s lending library. They also built a learning center for outdoor projects, and learned from Casa Victoria’s founder about what it means to create grassroots change within a community. Aside from volunteering, students also had the opportunity to visit an Afro-Ecuadorian village, and learn about both the joys and challenges of living in an isolated, underserved mountain community.
In the summer of 2018, nine 11th grade students will travel to Cambodia, where a majority of the population is directly descended from victims of the Khmer Rouge genocide. We will visit sites and meet with organizations who are memorializing the genocide, with the goal of understanding how public spaces can be used as shared community resources for healing. Our students will also volunteer at an organization that builds wheelchairs for landmine victims, and visit an organization that rescues women from human trafficking.
After our trip to Cambodia, students will partner with MASS Design and community organizations in Newburgh to create a public memorial to victims of trauma and violence in our city. Our students will research the trajectory of oppression in Newburgh, beginning with the effects of multi-generational trauma experienced by enslaved Africans and their descendants in our area and moving towards more current issues of poverty, oppression and gun violence. This project will be about legacy and recognition -an acknowledgement of Newburgh’s shared loss, an examination of the lasting impacts of trauma in our community, and a testament to the resilience and hope we see every day in Newburgh youth and their families.
Our program provides youth in Newburgh the opportunity to see the world and to begin to envisioning themselves as change makers in it.