Syndi's Story

"In August 2016, I embarked on my journey abroad. A few short months beforehand I decided that I wanted to make the most out of my experience in Madrid. I wanted to experience Spain in a way that was non-traditional and leave an everlasting footprint on the community in which I was continuing my educational journey. For me, an internship seemed like the perfect opportunity to pursue my passions abroad. While my peers looked for internship opportunities that would compliment their resumes or align with their academic goals, I looked for one that would align with my goals for the future of our youth.

For quite some time I have been passionate about improving the quality of education for the youth in my city. My hometown, Detroit, is a place where many students go without the educational benefits that are awarded to the students in neighboring suburbs, where students aren’t provided adequate books to read, the water sometimes runs brown, and college seems to be an excellent place, but one that is unattainable for inner-city youth. Since last summer, I have made it my life goal to continuously contribute to my community by making sure that youth are not denied their right to an excellent education because of their socioeconomic background; with the IES Abroad Internship program I worked to reverse this stigma and create a generation of youth that would excel.

This past semester I worked with in the Social Services Center of Los Yébenes (a neighborhood in Spain) with a program called Asociación Edúnica where the mission was to encourage students who come from non-traditional families to excel academically by receiving the academic, psychological, and social support necessary to be well-rounded students, because for them, the problem is not that they are incapable of learning or that they don’t want to, but that the obstacles that they are faced with daily sometimes distract them from their education. Therefore, as an after-school tutor and mentor, my goal was to provide them with an environment in which they could express themselves openly and receive help with whatever obstacle stood in their path.

While some people may view an internship of this class as something of minor impact, in my opinion, I have just changed the world. For me, it is not quantity, but quality that matters. Although I may have only worked with twenty kids of Madrid in order to make them better citizens, I have essentially impacted the entire world because I was a part of cultivating the world’s next doctors, brain surgeons, teachers, firemen, soup kitchen volunteers, and global citizens who will use what I have taught them to shape the world of tomorrow. By encouraging one student to become eager instead of discouraged to study, I changed the path of one student and though it may not be many, that one student going down the right path could be the one student that will change lives. While my support may not have been life changing for every student, what will stick with them is that someone cares and supports them in all that they do and with that they will able to accomplish things that will shape their community for the better.

When I sought out to change the lives of children who the world deems less-fortunate (I deem them to be just as fortunate as anyone else), I didn’t realize that mine would be changed too. I didn’t realize that I would find my purpose or that they would inspire me to become a global change agent. After I left Madrid I thought a lot about my experience. I thought about how many of the students expressed to me that they had never had anyone who cared about their future as much I did, how they didn’t have anyone that they could talk to openly, and how their lives had been forever changed. While I missed my students dearly, I thought about how many other students in this world felt the same pain and lived the same struggle: they were born into a life where resources were limited, faith was low, and support was no where to be found. I began to become angry at the thought that children were not receiving the support that they needed due to a situation that they could not control. That is when I realized that being angry about it wouldn’t alter their disadvantage, but doing something about it would! From here on out I decided that I would translate that anger to determination and bring my contribution abroad to my own community - I decided that I would not let global change end there.

This summer, I will be working as a servant leader intern with the Children’s Defense Fund Freedom School, an organization that has dedicated over 100 years of service to ensuring that children around the world are provided with an education that will allow them to achieve their wildest dreams. Working in neighborhoods where children would not normal have the privilege to receive books, I will be nurturing children in order to cultivate their love for reading and encourage them to become leaders and global change agents. Freedom Schools is more than a 6-week opportunity for the children that I will be impacting; for many students it is a place to belong, a place to be appreciated, and a place to be loved despite their day-to-day environment. Through this program I plan to continue to advocate for our youth around the world and teach them that with determination, effort, and compassion they can be anything despite all doubt that they have experienced in the past. In the near future I plan to dedicate my summers to impacting the lives of more and more youth everyday while continuing to volunteer with Asociación Edúnica in the upcoming semester, but ultimately I hope to start a non-profit organization that will give youth who’ve made mistakes, youth who have faced criminal charges, a second chance.  The youth are our future. The youth are my passion. All youth deserve a fair chance. The IES Abroad program taught me this."

About the IES Abroad Global Citizen of the Year Award