Global Action. This phrase is embedded into the heart of our mission statement at Mackintosh Academy. As an International Baccalaureate World school, global action is a key part of our educational program. We hope that our students will continue to take action to make an impact on the world long after they leave Mack.
Reid Anderson, a Mackintosh Littleton alum, University of Colorado grad, and son of longtime Mack educator Stacey Anderson, is one of those students who took the global action message to heart. He is currently serving in the Peace Corps in Liberia, and recently shared his story with us.
When I came to Liberia I came intentionally with no expectations. I didn’t want the experience to be tainted by any of my possible preconceived notions. I did come with two goals: to learn and to serve. Those two goals were the reason I decided after graduating from the University of Colorado to join the Peace Corps and teach abroad for two years. Rather than jump into the workforce or rush into graduate school, I would take time to pursue two of my deepest values: learning and serving. As I reflect, it’s natural for me to draw a direct line from my time at Mackintosh Academy to who I am today.
The Joy of Inquiry
Mackintosh ignited and kindled my desire to learn, inside and outside of the classroom. It was the place where the joy of inquiry was fostered by so many wonderful teachers – teachers whose impact continues to reverberate ten years later. Mr. Kelley was unrelenting in his quest to improve his students’ writing, to be creative, to retool and rework drafts. Mrs. Muench demonstrated that education was about asking questions, and not settling for the easy or clearly apparent answers. Mr. Pausback made math come alive in his enthusiasm, something I try to emulate everyday in my own math classes. Ms. Mundt believed in my ability to be a real scientist, even as a 6th grade biology novice, and gave me the confidence to pursue different and exciting experiments. All of these teachers started me on the path of inquiry and lifelong learning.
To Learn and To Serve
From my parents I learned the value of service and the gratification that can arise from giving of yourself. And so these two meaningful verbs: to learn, to serve, acted as my motivations as I moved to Liberia. I’ve now lived in my community for nearly two years, a small farming and mining village along the Cestos River. Attempting to teach Jr. High for the first time inevitably leads me to reflect on my own experience as a student. I’m pulled towards trying to understand what factors led me to become who I am today, and how I can try to instill some of the same motivations into my impressionable Liberian students that were impressed upon me at Mackintosh Academy.
It’s a constant struggle here, especially with the limited available resources and support, and with students pulled in many different directions (often away from their studies.) I’ve had plenty of time to reflect on my choices, and I still feel as though teaching here is valuable, is worth the effort. I’m not so naive as to think that I’m making a major impact here, but “major” really isn’t the goal. “Positive,” “sustainable,” “esteem-building,” these are the types of impacts and interactions I try to bring more and more as my service dwindles to the last few months.
Teachers play such a pivotal role in who their students become. It’s why ten, twenty years later most students can still remember one of their favorite teachers. What the teacher did for them. How the teacher made them feel. That’s the impact that many of my Mackintosh teachers had on me. That’s what I attempt in my own small way to emulate here in Liberia.
Bringing Global Action Back to Mack
Last Friday I spoke over Skype with some of the Mack 8th grade students for their World Affairs Challenge. One of my ninth graders, Sam, helped me to answer questions about Liberia, our community in Rivercess, and the challenges faced by our school system. Most of my time here I spend working in the school. Between lessons, planning, working to improve the school campus, and working with students outside of class, it keeps me busy.
Beyond school, I love hanging out with neighbors, visiting other volunteers, and working on secondary projects. My largest project to date is currently in progress. Following two devastating civil wars, Liberia’s infrastructure and educational system was decimated, leaving schools, especially those in rural areas, entirely lacking the resources needed to educate their young students. My school, not dissimilar to many rural Liberian schools, doesn’t have even the most fundamental of literary materials.
My cohort and I wanted to do something to change this reality in our schools. Many volunteers have been working with their communities to renovate areas for use as libraries and reading rooms. Now, through an organization called Books for Africa, we’re looking to ship over 20,000 books across the Atlantic, then to distribute the books to 22 schools across Liberia, including my recently renovated (but still empty) school library. The books will be school-specific, tailored to the needs of the students. Each school administration will hold a library sustainability training with the help of their PC volunteer. Even the container in which the books are shipped will be put to use: repurposed for use as a reading room at a local high school.
Would You Like to Help?
The books are donated, but the shipment, clearance, and transport of the book container is not. That’s why we’re looking for help to raise the funds for this project, and we’ve almost reached our goal. If you’d like to help us find this project, donations are accepted at https://www.peacecorps.gov/donate/projects/literacy-to-liberia-pp-19-669-004/