Going into the BLI bootcamp, our team did not anticipate how much we would evolve over the course of the BLI Capstone program. At the beginning of our capstone summer, we were in the mindset to make progress with our work as quickly as possible. Our work with school health education in Bangladesh had just received several grants to expand our reach, and we were eager, maybe a bit too eager to make use of the opportunities before us. We made plans in great detail, how we would allocate funds, who we would partner with, how many students we wanted to reach with our funds. Everything seemed in place for another year of setting and achieving goals. 

    Bootcamp was in a way a much-needed re-set for our team. We had to confront and understand our reasoning on a much more intimate level than before. Through the discussions and activities, we began to ask ourselves “why” instead of only “how”. Why did we think we should partner with the Centre for Woman and Child Health? Why do we need to double the size of our program so suddenly? When we started asking “why” we began to realize that we had misplaced the value of our work in its numbers rather than its quality. Because of the Capstone program, we were able to renew our appreciation for the amount of thought that had went into our work prior to last summer. 

    When we began Project Healthy Schools Global in 2016, we spent nearly a year researching health education and the socio-economics of adolescent health in Bangladesh. We spoke with stakeholders, from researchers to students and parents. We conducted multiple literature searches and stakeholder maps to contextualize the need for school health education. Before our pilot, we spent another year developing our program with the input of faculty, physicians, education experts, and school teachers at the University of Michigan and Bangladesh. 

    Our conversations with BLI peers and mentors made us realize that our work succeeded because of and not in spite of our meticulous, and sometimes painstaking, attention to detail. The amount of deliberation we put into our work made our program stand apart from similar programs that were unable to have as much of an impact. Most importantly, the additional time we dedicated to our work had ensured that we prioritized the needs of the communities we worked with. By asking more questions and collecting more input, our work was embedded in the voice of the community rather than assumptions drawn solely from academia. Community ownership, in turn, improved sustainability as the students and teachers we worked with championed our work in spite of challenges from a military crackdown on student protestors in 2018 to school closings because of an unanticipated dengue epidemic last summer. 

    The Capstone program at the Barger Leadership Institute, from bootcamp to research to the showcase, has been an invaluable experience in re-examining and re-defining the work we do. Today, because of the Capstone experience, our team continues to move forward but with more clarity and a resolve to continue prioritizing our community at every step of the way.