The Community and Global Citizenship program at Albuquerque Academy requires students to integrate community service into their educational journeys. Three years ago, Samsara Durvasula, Shannon Fonseca, and Elizabeth Moeser began working closely with a local Burundi refugee family, helping the children and their parents learn the skills needed to succeed in the United States. The experience opened their eyes to the realities these families face every day, especially children who struggle to keep up with their schoolwork due to limited English language skills.
Recognizing their power to help others, the students went on to become founding members of Read to Excel, a literacy program that seeks to expand opportunities for Albuquerque’s refugee and immigrant community. Their efforts have directly affected the lives of more than 50 refugees — elementary school children have improved reading skills, high school students are transformed from quiet outsiders to outgoing teenagers, and adults have become confident English speakers.
Samsara, Shannon, and Elizabeth, now seniors, started with just themselves and six other tutors; now more than 20 volunteers are involved. Most are Albuquerque Academy students; some of their teachers have also joined the team. In November, the New Mexico Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals recognized their efforts at its 2015 National Philanthropy Day celebration.
“This experience has greatly broadened my understanding of global issues and made me aware of an amazing population within my community,” says Elizabeth. “I often feel as though my students teach me as much as I do them — they inspire and motivate me to continue addressing the issue of literacy in my community.”