By Madelyn Brenner
I didn’t know what to think when I signed up for my Bound for Peace trip to Medellin, Colombia last summer. I was excited, but also nervous at the thought of being in an unfamiliar place. The trip was incredible, and the memories will last a lifetime, making it difficult to put it into words, but I have tried to compile just a few reasons everyone should experience a Bound for Peace Trip!
1. Experience a new place
Even if you’ve been to Colombia before, our Bound for Peace trips explore famous landmarks of the country! I was so excited to visit Guatapé, a landmark of Colombia and particularly Medellin. The view from the top of the exhausting climb was incredible, and I will forever remember the rush I felt after climbing all of those stairs!
2. Try new foods
Besides the amazing coffee, I was able to try many yummy foods that I had never tasted before. Some of my favorites included pandequeso and the Lulo pops I bought near where we volunteered.
3. Make amazing friendships
Besides the adorable girls we worked with, the ladies I traveled with were super fun to spend my two weeks with, and we were able to build lasting relationships. We also met the scholars that the IAMCBOB program serves.
4. Experience local celebrations
One of the most amazing parts of my trip was visiting the Fería de los Flores, or parade of flowers! The flower creations that city residents carried on their backs for miles were breathtaking! It was an experience I will never forget!
5. Make a difference in the lives of others
The best part of my Bound for Peace trip was feeling like I had made a tangible difference in the lives of others. Planning workshops that we thought the girls would enjoy each day was such a fun experience and watching them come to fruition in person was amazing! I would recommend this trip to everyone for the joy of seeing big smiles on the girls’ faces each day! The saddest part was leaving while they cried and hugged us goodbye!
Take a chance and sign up for a Bound for Peace trip today! I can guarantee you won’t regret it!
By Abby Sommer
Are you interested in Graphic Design? Have you ever wanted to create a logo, brand design, or social media event post for a company but don’t know where to start? As a graphic design student at the University of Florida, I have been taught professional design programs like Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator, however, not all of us have the time nor energy to teach ourselves how to use such complicated programs. That’s where the website Canva comes in. Canva is a program that allows the user to design anything from event flyers to book covers to marketing materials.
Once you create an account and sign in, Canva provides a toolbar with a list of different options to help you curate your design experience. You can search templates, see designs that were shared with you by other users, and save specific colors and fonts to your company’s account via the “Your brand” tab. Then below, you can create folders organizing your designs into specific categories in order to keep your brand organized.
In the actual design window, there are countless ways to be creative with your work. Once a template has been selected, the user basically has complete control over every element of it. Among some of the most basic controls the user has are changing the color scheme, font style, and altering the text and background elements. Canva also offers free images, illustrations, shapes, lines, and frames to give the user complete creative freedom with their design. And if the site doesn’t have something you need, you can upload your own images, fonts, and layouts. All of these features combined with simple, easy to understand controls, allow the user to user to create the design of their dreams.
Overall, I’ve enjoyed my time working with Canva thus far. if you’re strapped for time or have hit a roadblock with your design, it offers an easy way to jumpstart your brain and get the creative juices flowing. I definitely recommend Canva to anyone who is new in the design world, or simply wants to better their skills and eye.
Abby Sommer is a Graphic Design Intern with CBOB. She attends the University of Florida.
By Samantha Knight
There are times when quitting is simply not an option.
This is coming from someone who is a serial quitter. There are countless unfinished novels stored on my flashdrive; I regularly start cleaning my house and then stop halfway through, distracted by some lost item uncovered while sweeping under the couch. The dozen clubs I’ve joined (then promptly resigned from) may also be worth mentioning.
This, however, was different.
I was six months out of college when I was hired to teach 8th grade English at a middle school near my hometown. I knew it wouldn’t be easy--I was told by fresh and veteran teachers alike that the first year is the most difficult. In the interview, I was told that this was no exception--in fact, this might be especially difficult. These were good kids, I was told, but they were given a terrible lot. Three months into the school year, and already two to three teachers had been unable to stay. Various subs passed through the classroom as well. The students had no structure, and had gotten used to anarchy in the classroom. They were the only consistent ones in there.
They were like foster children that were continuously passed from teacher to teacher. To cope with the constant abandonment, they decided they owned the class. It was the teachers who walked into their territory.
While teaching, there were moments that I, too, thought I might quit like those before me. I brought with me rules; many resisted. In hindsight, I understand that they didn’t really believe I would stay, that I was temporary like the rest. This, combined with the fact that, at twenty-three years old and five foot nothing (I could have passed for one of their peers at a distance), led to a general lack of respect among the wilder ones. Sometimes I came home crying and ready to call my principal, saying I couldn’t control the class like I wanted, students didn’t want to listen, I just couldn’t do this anymore.
I didn’t call. I knew that if I quit now, the next teacher would have no hope. And neither would the students.
I stuck it out.
Deep down, these kids wanted structure. They wanted someone to be consistent, no matter how rocky the classroom became, no matter how new or young the teacher was. I received a note on the last day of class from one of my most “problem” students. It read:
Thank you for staying when no one else would. Thank you for being my teacher.
I’m extremely glad I did stay.
And now, in August, I will be entering my second year, new tools in my belt and skills I’ve picked up. The struggle of the first year has made me a more patient, confident, and empathetic person...and, I believe, a much better teacher.
To anyone who is entering their first year teaching, or wants to be a teacher, know this: what they say is true. It’s not easy. Not in the slightest. But, believe me, it is worth it in the end, and it will become easier. Even if you feel you are trying your best to no avail, I promise that your presence is far better than your absence. Keep going.
By Teagan Murphy
Education is a bedrock for cultivating success. At Children Beyond Our Borders, Inc. we run by the motto “Education = Empowerment” because we recognize the importance of education in empowering students and communities and in cultivating success. While a degree does not define you, receiving an education often brings you closer to achieving your goals, reaching your dreams, and understanding the world around you. We commonly agree in the United States that education is key to maintaining economic well-being and unlocking upward mobility. However, we often fail to acknowledge and effectively close the educational achievement gap that exists between students of different socioeconomic statuses: a gap that leaves poor and/or nonwhite children behind.
Countless studies and research articles show discrepancies between white students and nonwhite students in regard to reading and math proficiency, high school graduation rates, and college enrollment. We also find similar discrepancies between poor and nonpoor students. It is easy to trace the roots of the gap back to a history of inequality in the United States that kept nonwhite, especially Black, children in poor communities and either out of formal education or in separate, low-quality institutions. However, there are several issues today that keep the achievement gap in place, even if separation and discrimination are no longer legally enforced. Modern day segregation in schools is one of these issues. Despite the number of years that have passed since the end of formal segregation, there is still minority concentration in schools, with some schools hosting a majority of white students and other schools hosting a majority of black or overall minority students. This is largely a result of continued residential segregation and persistent concentrated poverty in predominantly black, Hispanic, and Native American communities. School zones often keep students within these communities, maintaining the separation between low-income minority students and higher-income white students. Going further, poorer schools and schools that host primarily minority students often receive less funding (contradictory to what you might expect) and employ less-competent staff members, which can prevent the school from providing more adequate instruction and engaging opportunities. This brings out average lower scores for standardized tests and lower graduation rates for these schools.
Other factors in these segregated communities also contribute to the achievement gap. A sense of social support and belongingness within the school community is a primary factor. When students feel supported by their communities – their teachers, faculty members, parents, peers, and other community members – they are more likely to perform better in school. Low-income students report feelings of lower social support and belongingness, and these students are more likely to perform poorly and even drop out. Low-income communities overall also have a different culture and climate than higher-income communities. Parents are less likely to be involved because they are more likely to work more hours or work jobs with fewer opportunities for time off, and a lack of parent involvement translates to a lack of social support. Low-income communities are also more likely to have higher rates of crime, and a lack of security and safety in a community contributes to low school performance. A lack of access to mental health resources within a community can also contribute to the achievement gap. Research indicates that a significant proportion of children face emotional disorders, that children from disadvantaged backgrounds are more vulnerable to emotional difficulties, and that these emotional difficulties are capable of hindering educational achievement.
Outside of income status and community resources, the presence of hidden bias in a community can also contribute to the achievement gap for students of color. Along with a gap in achievement, research indicates a gap in discipline, with students of color receiving disproportionately high rates of discipline (detentions, suspensions, expulsions) compared to white students. Constant discipline can not only cause a student to fall behind, bringing down grades and test results and potentially putting them off track to graduate – but it can also cause a decline in motivation, which can stifle improvement and worsen one’s work ethic. Rather than resulting merely from these students exhibiting more problematic behaviors as a result of their communities, it is quite possible that hidden bias causes these students to be punished more quickly and more often than white students despite the offense. Even when controlling for different factors, such as the income status of the students or the offense committed, research shows that minority students are punished more often and more severely than white students. Further research also indicates teachers are more likely to monitor the behaviors of black students compared to other students, and label similar behaviors as delinquency among their black students.
When students come to expect discipline as a daily occurrence, they are less likely to feel a sense of social support from their school communities. When teachers have low expectations for students, the students are less likely to perform well, creating a self-fulfilling prophecy. This logic can be extended: when communities have low expectations for their youth, the youth will follow suit, creating another self-fulfilling prophecy. This goes for youth in struggling communities and youth who face bias and discrimination in more well-off communities. However, the self-fulfilling prophecy can be applied positively. When students receive social support and are held to higher expectations, they are more likely to perform well in school.
As mentioned at the beginning of this post, we at CBOB believe that Education = Empowerment. It is our stance that every child, regardless of social status, race, or gender, deserves a proper education. We recognize the barriers that young children within our own country face in succeeding in the classroom, which led to the launch of our domestic program, Children Within Our Borders, in 2015. We also recognize the barriers that low-income and nonwhite students face in reaching for higher education as a result of the achievement gap. That is why, in spring of 2018, we launched our College Prep Mentoring Program. Through this program, we aim to bridge the educational achievement and college success gaps between students of varying socioeconomic statuses by providing low-income and traditionally underrepresented students with college prep mentors who guide them through the college application process. We hope to not only bring further awareness to the issue, but also join a force of upcoming initiatives aimed at narrowing an ultimately closing the educational achievement gap.
Teagan Murphy is a rising senior at the University of Florida. She is double majoring in Family, Youth & Community Sciences and Sociology. She is CBOB's Mentorship Director.
By Yanelis Diaz
At the end of my sophomore year of college I applied for a position on Children Beyond Our Borders’ UCF Chapter executive board which became my first leadership experience as an undergraduate student. Now after serving countless leadership positions including a two year presidency, I have developed skills that I would’ve never thought possible with my undergraduate career. From having a greater sense of varying team dynamics to tricks to cultivating the attention of a crowd, leadership positions have been my favorite part of my collegiate career.
Holding a leadership position as an undergraduate student is an invaluable experience because you have the opportunity to develop skills alongside peers that are striving to do the same. Further, you have the opportunity to practice different communication and teamwork methods to learn your own leadership style. With each position I find myself feeling more confident when initiating a new idea; this confidence has led to the ability to productively network with others. Not only does leadership experience help sharpen skills, but it shows future employers that you have already taken strides towards been an active member in a team which is its own form of workforce experience.
Empowering others while empowering yourself stands as a common belief within CBOB so if you’ve been on the brinks of running for an officer position or applying for an internship, I encourage you to take the leap and go for it.
Yanelis Diaz is the Operations Director of CBOB and is currently a student at the University of Central Florida.
By Endrina Fernandez
At the beginning of my senior year at UF, my friend and I came across Children Beyond Our Borders at Plaza of the Americas (back in 2014). We were both excited to apply and venture to a new country, a new city, a new everything. Shortly after my application I received an email for an interview at Library West; this adventure was becoming more real to me. Later on, I got my acceptance letter and dates for our training. Nothing felt real until I stepped out of the airplane and saw Yosimar holding a "Welcome CBOB Family" banner.
The apartment was luxurious, the pool looked amazing, my group of volunteers was hilarious. I could not complain; I was in paradise. Then we had our first day at the foundation at Granitos de Paz. Holy Crap! Who knew you could fall in love with so many kids in a split second! They see you and their eyes light up, they rush to hug you, and it just feels like unconditional love. Monday through Friday, as a group, we would present our workshops and bond with the kids. Some kids would pull me aside to tell me secrets, some called me "mom", and others just wanted to hug me or be by my side all day. It could get a bit exhausting because kids do have tons of energy, but it was worth it. We became this huge family in less than two weeks.
Our last day consisted of a war, a water balloon war. We split into teams and rushed to fill up as many balloons as we could. Everyone could not stop laughing. This fulfilling experience that made our goodbyes with torn tears and long hugs. Nobody wanted to leave.
As you see, a Bound for Peace Trip becomes more than just a trip, it's a life-changing experience. You learn to appreciate your life a bit more. You learn to smile more. It's a feeling hard to explain but you feel like you made a change in someone's world. I have not met someone who did not enjoy their trip. Now I became the Director of Service Trips, because I may not have the eligibility to attend each trip, but I can assure the traditions continue on with every generation. I can make sure kids know I am there in spirit by face-timing a volunteer and chatting with the kids. I miss them all. And that was just a brief summary of my first Bound for Peace Trip to Cartagena in 2015.
Endrina Fernandez is the Director of the Service Trip Program for CBOB. She received a Bachelor's Degree in Sociology from the University of Florida.
By Daniel Alvarez
“You have to go. It will change your life.” These are the words that were spoken to me by a fellow classmate a few weeks before I applied to volunteer on my first service trip with CBOB in 2011. My classmate, Andrea Ortega (who would eventually become Executive Director of CBOB years later), had just finished telling me how her life was impacted by her first trip with CBOB the previous summer. I was unaware at the time that the service trip that I was going to embark on would actually change my worldview, help me find my passion, and shape the course of my life.
As a student entering my junior year at UF, I had already changed my major once and I was constantly questioning what career path was the right one for me. I knew I wanted to help people in need, but I was not completely sure what was the best path for me to do this. My parents, Colombian immigrants who came to the U.S. in search of a better life, endured many challenges and worked tirelessly to give my two older brothers and I a life of opportunity and the privilege to dream. Thanks to their sacrifices, I had the option of questioning my career choice halfway through college and of exploring what it was I truly wanted to do. I am grateful that when I came to my parents with the idea that I wanted to travel to Colombia with a group of volunteers for two weeks, they supported me and opened the door for me.
I arrived in Cartagena in the summer of 2011 excited for the unknown and with enthusiasm to serve the kids in the community. I felt ready to deliver on the goal of empowering the children to make positive life choices and to inspire them to pursue their dreams. However, I was unaware of the transformative impact that the youth would have on me.
I vividly remember arriving for the first time at Fundacion Granitos de Paz, the nonprofit organization located at the center of Rafael Nuñez, one of Cartagena’s most marginalized neighborhoods where we would be working with the youth. A social worker from the Fundacion provided the group of volunteers with an overview of the multitude of programs and services the organization provides to the children and families of Rafael Nuñez to help them overcome the challenges they face daily. The social worker then led us on a tour of the neighborhood, where my eyes were opened to the immense needs of the community. It did not take long to see the variety of challenges faced by the people of Rafael Nuñez as a result of poverty. There I was with 20+ college students from the United States, hopeful that we could make some sort of lasting impact on the lives of the children of this community over the next two weeks. However, I was realizing quickly that the challenges these children faced were so much larger than what we could realistically help them with. Whereas my thoughts when I landed in Cartagena consisted of “I can’t wait to make a difference in the lives of these kids,” they quickly shifted to “What are the chances that our time here can actually make a difference?” Needless to say, I began the trip with conflicted feelings about the long-term impact we could actually make during our time in Cartagena.
Then I met the kids. The joy in their faces greeting returning volunteers and meeting new ones for the first time was enough to show me that CBOB played a vital role in the lives of these children. Throughout the span of the two weeks that followed, I found out how CBOB has left its mark on the lives of so many kids in the community of Rafael Nuñez for years. Some children shared that they actively reminded themselves to avoid negative influences such as drugs and gangs because of what CBOB volunteers had taught them about these dangerous paths. Others shared how they came to have hope for a future in which they can pursue their goals for a better life through their education. Others even shared that they were determined to learn to speak English for the simple fact that they wanted to be able to communicate with the CBOB volunteers who came to visit them and could not speak Spanish. The most moving part of all was when I heard the general consensus about what this time of the year meant for the children: They had been looking forward to these two weeks with CBOB’s volunteers for the entire year. Despite the relatively short amount of time that the volunteers spend with the children of Rafael Nuñez each year, it was clear that CBOB’s impact lasted well beyond the two-week-long service trips.
During my time on that first service trip with CBOB, I realized that our purpose there was a more profound one than what I could have ever initially known. I came to see that a group of volunteers cannot possibly change the current situation the children lived in. However, each group of volunteers, year after year, had a role in empowering the children to make vital decisions that could change their futures. Perhaps most importantly, by the end of the trip I understood that the bonds that were created with the children of Rafael Nuñez were bonds that forged goals and hope for a better future.
I ended up returning as trip leader on the service trip to Cartagena the following year. I also joined the executive board of CBOB’s UF chapter with the hope of spreading awareness about the service trips to more students, citing to them the same words Andrea had told me a couple years prior. I even returned as a volunteer for a third time a year after graduating from college. It became very clear to me by this point that empowering youth was not just something I wanted to do as an extracurricular activity; it was what I wanted to do with my life.
While I was unsure of what path I wanted to take before I volunteered on my first trip with CBOB, I am grateful that the journey to my calling began with that experience. I graduated with my Masters in Social Work in 2017 and am pursuing licensure in Clinical Social Work. I am currently working for a behavioral health agency in Miami, where I provide therapeutic services to children and families facing a variety of life challenges. I attribute my experiences with CBOB as what mainly influenced me to pursue a career path in which offering hope and empowerment to people in need is one of the primary goals.
Approximately seven years after my first service trip with CBOB, I am honored to serve as a member of the organization’s Board of Directors. My experiences as a volunteer with CBOB shaped the course of my life, and I hope to help the organization continue to impact the lives of the children we serve, while hopefully helping others find their calling through CBOB, too.
Daniel Alvarez is a Behavioral Health Practitioner at Banyan Health Systems in Miami, FL.
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.
Choosing a graduate career can be extremely difficult. You’ve survived four years of taking a bunch of classes that didn’t have to do with what you studied. Just when when you finally got to the classes of your interest, you either realize you love it or think “what have I gotten myself into?” I graduated with my Bachelor’s in Packaging Engineering from the University of Florida, today, I am in the PhD program at the University of Central Florida in Public Administration. How did that happen? For one, I worked as a Structural Designer straight out of college for a packaging company and although designing was fun, I hated and dreaded going to work. I loved the nonprofit I volunteered at and I was pretty freaking good at it. I took a leap of faith and applied to the Masters in Nonprofit management at the University of Central Florida. The reason I share some of my background is for you to understand there are plenty of people who are now studying something totally different, my husband got his Masters in Logistics Management and his Bachelors in Criminal Justice. Life is not decided right after college, so much goes into what will be your forever career and although, I might not be in what I thought I would be, I somehow ended where I should be.
A couple of tips on choosing a graduate career:
If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to me. If you are thinking of applying to UCF. I’d love to answer any of your questions. You can reach me at email@example.com.
By Madelyn Brenner
At first, the thought of a virtual internship might be confusing or overwhelming--Will I have enough time? Will I understand the full extent of my position?---the questions are seemingly endless. But with a little research, you may realize that a virtual internship is the perfect way to balance other commitments while also gaining valuable experience for your future career goals.
Children Beyond our Borders offers what's called the Virtual Internship Program, more commonly known as VIP (because our interns are VIPs, of course). This program is "a selective program that allows individuals to get involved in an international non-profit organization" (CBOB VIP). By treating our interns as employees, they get a real-life feel for what a position in their respective field might be like, and they are able to learn valuable skills and receive advice and guidance from others further along the same path.
Virtual internships are also much more likely to fit your schedule, allowing you to complete your assigned tasks on your own time. You're also much more likely to have flexibility in deadlines, especially when a company knows you are a determined college student, balancing many tasks at once---a very impressive feat. It can also help you better hone your phone, email, and webchat etiquette to be better prepared to communicate on various formats with future coworkers, bosses, and more (Intern Queen). These internships can also prepare you for the possibility of telecommuting in the future (Internships). Virtual internships are an awesome option if you can't make a full-time commitment, but you are looking to gain experience in your field. Employees and employers alike can benefit from this mutual exchange of willingness to learn and experience to gain.
Children Beyond our Borders' Virtual Internship Program is special because it does provide remote access to our company, but it also has local events throughout each semester that can allow an intern at any Florida university with an official CBOB chapter--FSU, UCF, and UF--to participate in health fairs, workshops, tabling events and more. This interaction is a great way to see the impact each action you take has on the community around you. Even further, our interns are also eligible, as is anyone, to participate in our Bound for Peace service trips and see what our work is doing in South America as well.
Sound interesting? Consider applying to join our team! We're especially looking for those interested in Outreach, Public Relations, or recruiting for our Bound for Peace trips. Visit chbob.org/apply to send in your application today!