1.) For my STEP experience I went on a study abroad trip to Salvador, Brazil. We studied access to higher education (and education as a whole) especially for Afro-Brazilian youths.
2.) I had a vastly transforming experience in Brazil. As a white North American, I was really confronted with the privileges I carry just as an accident of birth. Salvador has a majority of black people, however the university in the city is 90% white. Access to education is not equal based on very systematic racism that has disadvantaged people of color for centuries. There was a stark parallelism between the situation in Brazil and what we see in the United States today. For me, it was incredibly eye opening to see the experience that students there have compared to the opportunities I was given here because of socioeconomic status and race.
3.) We visited several schools which really showed us what it was like for students to succeed. If students can afford private schools, they will have the proper education needed to get into the free, government funded public colleges. In contrast, those who must attend public K-12 schools are at a disadvantage because they are not well-funded by the government. Students must pass an entrance exam, but it is very hard if they cannot attend a good private school. They do have an affirmative action policy in place to help level the playing field for students of color.
We visited a school where the students are completely of color in a small, community neighborhood. They are a community school funded by donations so not everything is up to date. What they lack in funding or resources, they more than make up in passion and heart. These students were so happy for the opportunity to learn. Most of the students don’t eat more than the meal they are given at school they appreciate everything they are given.
Speaking with these children and teachers made me appreciate not only the free public education I had, but the choice I had in school and college. I had the opportunity to be whoever I wanted and many kids across the world, and right here at home, don’t have that chance. This has inspired me to go into education and fight for these kids so everyone can have equal access to education.
4.) This is so important because it has inspired me to think beyond myself in my career as an educator. That means taking jobs in lower-income districts, not working for the pay increases, but the chance to even the playing field and be an advocate for these students. It was devastating to see this abroad, but knowing that it is in our own backyard has inspired me to go forward and work to help solve this injustice.