By Valentina Betancur
In my personal opinion and from my own individual experience, education has the amazing quality of enlightening those who take it on. It has been a beautiful experience to have learned the things that I have learned in the classroom during my time in college thus far. Yet, one of the most difficult experiences during these past three years was to begin to make the connections between what I learned in the classroom to the harsh reality of what happens back home. I was born in Medellin, Colombia but I was raised in Jacksonville, Florida. The poverty rate there is almost 15%, and yet, when you drive through many of its streets it seems exponentially higher. The city has a pretty stark divide in terms of race and class where Blacks and Hispanics are often the most impoverished throughout the city. The legacies that I would study in class, I would see for myself when I would go back home and visit my friends. I would drive through the city and see for myself the opportunities—or lack thereof—that there are for certain communities. Children being packed into extremely low quality schools because of the neighborhoods that they were born in. This lack of educational opportunity coupled with the onslaught of other problems that the poor often face becomes an obstacle that is too difficult for many to overcome. I have seen the outcome of this combination with two of my closest friends as well as throughout the people of my city and now I understand the institutional problems that reside behind it.
Like I said before, I see education as an opportunity for enlightenment, but I think that it also gives a person power to act on that knowledge. I hope every day that I can continue on to be an advocate for the disenfranchised and their experiences and to use the information that I have learned to help break down some of the barriers that have been put in front of them.
Even though I am the Development Director for CBOB and therefore do not interact with the children that we serve face-to-face as much as other managers, I still feel that it is an opportunity to start breaking down some barriers. After going back to my city several times and understanding the role that education plays in changing lives, it makes me incredibly proud of the work that we do as an organization. The children that we help (both locally and abroad) could easily be one of my friends from back home or one of the people that I drive by on the streets of Jacksonville. Every effort that we make on a daily basis contributes to enhancing the quality of life of another person, until little by little we make real change.
Valentina Betancur is the Development Director for Children Beyond Our Borders. She is entering her fourth year at the University of Florida as a double major in Economics and International Studies with a minor in International Development, and she has been with CBOB for a little over a year, beginning last summer as a fundraising intern.