Thursday, May 7

the Cleveland half-marathon

Well, after eight months, the inaugural Thinking Beyond Borders trip has ended. We wrapped up with graduation last weekend, and everyone has dispersed to their respective homes. I don’t think the finality of our group’s time together has struck me yet, but it’s certainly different to be at home.

I’m not quite done with TBB, though: I registered today for the Cleveland half-marathon, where TBB has planned its second big fundraising event. I haven’t been training specifically, but I am going to do it. For me, it’s important to continue involvement in TBB and make the same opportunities I had available for other students.

All of the money raised for the Cleveland marathon goes directly towards scholarships. One of the most striking things about visiting high schools in the past couple weeks was how many students asked about the cost of the program. At first it was downright awkward to have to tell them that this was by no means a cheap trip, with a price tag equivalent to a year’s tuition at a private college. I spoke with a couple of incredibly enthusiastic students whose faces fell upon hearing the cost. TBB was able to offer scholarships last year, and creating a diverse group is important. The economy is hitting hard, of course, and more and more families need support to make a trip like this possible.

Having had this fantastic opportunity over the past year, I would love to be able to see more qualified students share the chance to partake. If you have been reading my blog, if you think the trip has been interesting, I am asking you to please pledge towards my run. The philosophy behind Thinking Beyond Borders is not just about a travel tour of the world; it’s about educating a future generation of leaders to think in a dynamic and engaging way about the world in ways that a freshman year of college doesn’t offer. I know it’s a tough time all around, and even a little money could help make this accessible to potential students. Many, many thanks … and I’ll let you know how I feel around mile 11!

secure Fundraising site:

Road Trip Presentations

We spent the past couple of weeks on three separate road trips, traveling around the country to deliver the presentations of learning that we created in Virginia. One van stretched from Atlanta to Boston, one covered the tri-state area in New York, and mine took on the Midwest: Louisville, Chicago, and Cleveland. We presented mostly to high school audiences, with crowds varying from a couple students to an entire auditorium full.

My presentation focused on our experience in South Africa, stressing the importance of interacting with the individuals behind the large global issues. Getting to know the people, I argued, does two things: first, it gives you a personal and tangible relationship to an issue, like AIDS, that can be overwhelming and vague judged by vast statistics alone. Secondly, it gives you a more nuanced understanding of complex issues; I learned just how deeply-rooted cultural stigmas are against AIDS in ways I could not have by merely studying the facts of the epidemic.

I wanted to relate this lesson to any community-based efforts, not just so far as another continent, but within your own community. To really bring my message home to students and peers, I made a really clear connection to our every-day lives. Thanks to Photoshop, I created a mock-Facebook profile of Sharon, an AIDS patient I met in South Africa.

For those of you not drawn into the Facebook craze, let me preface by saying that every single one of the 65 girls I graduated from high school with has a Facebook profile. Many log in multiple times each day, and pore over minute details of their friends’ lives. I’ve had my own Facebook for years, but coming back to the US, I was particularly struck by how deeply interested we are in our own little networks, while our awareness of someone like Sharon is near-zero. To highlight this paradox, and to perhaps urge those in my generation to invest a bit of their Facebook energy into global consciousness, I showed my audiences the profile.

Receptions were varied; some were quite curious about TBB and our experiences, and others less so. But the Facebook hook definitely drew the attention of people my age. It was undoubtedly valuable to go through the process of figuring out how to articulate what we’ve seen abroad and how to bring that back home. It was also fascinating to see a range of different high schools, my own all-girls experience being a very atypical one. We saw everything from an inner-city Chicago school to an all-boys’ Catholic sports powerhouse, as well as a middle school and a University. I also enjoyed the experience of seeing a part of the country I haven’t visited much.