If you were given the mission to change the world, what would you do? That’s what the remarkable students at Democracy Prep Charter High School in Harlem, New York are tasked with once they reach their senior year.
Here at JetBlue, one of our goals is to Inspire Humanity, and when we noticed that these students in our hometown were doing just that, we decided to help by giving a few students the opportunity to travel to the Dominican Republic to make their mission a reality.
The year-long student-driven research assignment gives each young adult the opportunity to tackle and important local or global issue. By the end of the project the students have written a 15-page paper, given a ten-minute presentation, and most importantly completed 100 hours of work experience in support of their issue.
Tyisha and Ashlynn are two of those students, and they shared their experiences with us:
In my desire to propel my learning outside of the classroom, I visited the Dominican Republic for one week during my school break sponsored by JetBlue. I was able to conduct interviews to analyze the impact of limited resources in public schools on opportunities for higher education. I then compared those findings to higher education opportunities from private schools in the Dominican Republic. During my research, I confirmed the notion that a lack of educational resources is present in some schools.
The rural public school classroom lacked projectors, had one broken computer, and was lined with rundown bookshelves. All of the teachers I interviewed confirmed their need for science laboratories and more academic books.
On the other hand, the private school I briefly visited had abundant resources such as projectors, iPads, SMART Boards, and printers available to students.
I presented these findings to organizations such as JetBlue and Plan International, increasing awareness and mobilizing
influential organizations around this issue. I was able to conclude that my research must be continued and improved for better and long-lasting results.
It would be great to continue this project in my undergraduate years. So many more countries are in need of educational resources. It is vital that governments and organizations see research similar to my own and become convinced to increase funding for public education as education may be the only way for some children to escape poverty and reach their goals.
I first began thinking about my Change the World Project during the summer of my Junior year. At first, I had no idea what I wanted to, moreover, I didn’t know how I was going to get the funds to dream big. I had to start from scratch . After attending a United Nations conference featuring Malala Yousafzai and U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, I was inspired to focus my project on raising awareness for women’s education in the Muslim World. All fears of rejection decimated as I thought about how Malala, just a teenage girl my age, fearlessly fought for education rights in Pakistan. If she could do it, why couldn’t I?
The original focus of my project was centered on Muslim countries. However, I realized that Muslim countries are receiving a lot of awareness for women’s equality and education rights. It became apparent to me that the Latin Americas have some of the highest rates of domestic violence and human trafficking. I sympathized with the women having come from a long line of women who have experienced their fair share of challenges.
Growing up in Jamaica, the women in my family were bound within a patriarchal culture struck by poverty. My mom and her womanhood was viewed as inferior and her sole purpose of existence was to be the caretaker. My abusive grandfather pressured my mother, as the only female left in the house, to care for him and her younger brother. Her laborious household obligations forced her to drop out of school.
Although, I live in the United States where freedom and equality are generally accessible, I cannot help but notice the subtle prejudice that women still receive.
As I continued to age, I realized that inequality for women was not just happening in Jamaica or the United States, it happens all over the world. It was appalling to me to know that behind the facade of sandy white beaches and beautiful hotels, in the Dominican Republic, gender-based violence is the fourth leading cause of death among women. Additionally, it was even more shocking to know that the Dominican government was planning to ease punishments for laws against women.
As my sister Caribbean country native, I cannot help but feel sympathy, frustration, and anguish for the women and girls suffering in the Dominican Republic. It distresses me to know that girls my age have to live in these kinds of conditions. It is even more distressing to know that their own government is inactive and even helping the problem. The women in the Dominican Republic have stopped voicing out their cries against violence. Even though I am not originally from the Dominican Republic, as fellow human beings, and more importantly as women, it is my duty to help those who have lost the will to voice their calls of freedom.