Storytelling and Colombia

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In the midst of a teacher strike in Barranquilla, Colombia, two volunteer teachers and I got into our boss’ car and started off for Barlovento, a nearby neighborhood with a colorful fishing culture and a high crime rate. Out of school due to the teacher strike, children played in the shade of the low mango trees while the unrelenting midday sun seeped into my skin. The children shyly approached us, the obvious foreigners, and as the Spanish speaker, I began to ask questions. “What is your name? How old are you? Do you want to learn English?”

My students and me on our way to an activity outdoors

I took this internship opportunity to travel to the northern coast of Colombia and teach English to elementary-age children last spring. Upon arrival, I quickly realized there were no concrete plans for the ten volunteers that had come to Barranquilla. We were armed with the task of founding this English summer school that would serve the underprivileged children from Barlovento. Despite their hardship, lack of formal education and disipline, they dreamed of becoming doctors, astronauts and businesspeople. Their stories filled me with hope and the possibility for an English education excited their dreams. Motivated by these children and seeing how I could directly impact these students I took action to make sure we could provide them with quality English teaching. Each day, I rode the bus to work with a big smile on my face after spending the evenings working on curriculum for the next day.

That experience as a team leader and teacher for Fundación Aliarse Summer School showed that when faced with adversity, I am able to see the beauty of a challenge and tenaciously work towards a goal. While in Colombia, along with other news and non-news experiences, I fully realized the importance of storytelling and newsgathering. I believe the average person does not grasp how important the news has been in shaping the world they live in and their views on that reality. The stories of the children in Barlovento, as well as the bigger picture of broken education systems in large cities, have been impetus for my aspirations in the journalism field.

Involvement with journalism began for me as editor-in-chief of The Jagwire award-winning newspaper where I designed the front and special sections and made news decision. I understand the important balance of quality design and copy along with relevance of online components for current news. As a staff writer for The Daily Tar Heel and journalism major at UNC-Chapel Hill, I continue to tell stories and make quality journalist judgments with each story.