Over the next few weeks we are excited to congratulate and introduce the first cohort of TAP grant recipients.
I am the color pink. I am a crocheter. Ne be Dioula ani Anglais (I am Diola and English. I am box braids and glasses. I am Americanah. I am Sense8. I am laughter. I am Viola Davis. I am Aloko (sweet plantains) and Chopped Cheeses. I am afrobeats music. I am sass. I am dancing. I am a writer. I am the South Bronx. I am Burkina Faso. I am Haby Sondo and I am a woman of two distinct worlds.
On one hand, I am an 18-year-old woman who just finished navigating the public education system here in the United States. A child of immigrants who escaped a land of scarce opportunity, I was taught to love a school system which failed to always challenge and prepare me for life beyond a borough I proudly considered home. A middle school in the South Bronx was marked by gang violence, a mediocre curriculum, and two printers and computers for 400+ students to use. A high school in Spanish Harlem was marked by some undevoted teachers and not
enough discussion on real-world topics, topics which would have made it easier for me to understand that the four corners of my war-ridden neighborhood are not large enough to encompass the thousands of different stories, people, languages, cultures, and traditions all over the entire world.
On another hand, I am the child of a world an ocean away which harbors the roots of my beloved ancestors, Burkina Faso. Again, I find myself apart of a world where opportunity is scarce with a less than 50% literacy rate for the youth. A country where more than half of its people are living below the poverty line. Last year, I received the opportunity to travel abroad to Senegal through a program called IYLI where I volunteered at a village, participate in foreign language exchange with Senegalese students, and learned about the impact renewable energy has in the country. This trip sparked my interest in an international career and reminded
me that although the South Bronx is what I call home, I am also a member of the larger continent of Africa and being so, I have a duty to give back to the continent responsible for my very existence.
The distinctions between these two places are very evident. New York City is in the United States and Burkina Faso is in Africa. New York City has an estimated 8 million inhabitants while Burkina Faso has an estimated 18 million. When evaluated at a level deeper than the surface, my two homes 4,750 miles apart are less distinct than they appear. New York City is home to hundreds of different cultures, languages, and traditions. The screech of the trains against the train platforms and bright fluorescent lighting on 42nd street scream of opportunity and inclusiveness. Burkina is home to a different type of beautiful scenery. Mornings were marked by think, hot air, early wake-up calls by chickens on the house’s compound, and walks across brown, sandy grounds. And although beautiful in many distinct aspects, both locations are home to inequities in wealth and education. These worlds and their dynamics have worked to shape my interest in International Service, Education Reform, and Social Issues.
Through a service-oriented trip offered by the Council on International Educational and Exchange (CIEE), I can combine the interests I developed in my two distinct worlds on a three-month journey to Santiago in the Dominican Republic. There, I will receive the opportunity to volunteer at two Non-Governmental Organizations of choice, develop my passions, learn Spanish, and effect Educational change on a global scale. I hope to serve as a teacher’s assistant at a local English-speaking institute while volunteering at a civic center for marginalized Dominican and Haitian communities. In doing so, I will learn about educational and social dynamics of another culture seemingly distinct from my own while drawing further comparisons between my worlds and the Dominican Republic.
I am Haby Sondo and I am a Global Citizen.