25 September 2010

A Little More Than I Thought

After two long days of orientation, I know a little bit more about my program, and I must say that I am pleased with some of the things that I learned. On the surface, the program in which I am taking part is one that is designed to give young English speakers the chance to travel and experience the world while the government of Spain borrows their voice boxes for a few hours a day. But, as I learned in orientation, this is only part of the story...

Dating back to even before the Franco era (refer to my previous post if you are not sure what "Franco era" means), bilingual education has been a luxury for the rich in Spain. While there have been bilingual schools here for decades, they have all been private and followed the general rule of social mobility in the world, money. Now, with a liberal, socialist government in charge, that in all honesty isn't even really that socialist, there is a movement here in Spain to close that mobility gap. This means that the Spanish government is pushing to make public schools provide bilingual services. This movement does involve French and German, too, but the focus is on English language programming. English is the official language of the European Union, and while it is not the official language of international relations, it might as well be. In this day in age, knowing English increases your world access by exponential leaps and bounds, and it qualifies you to do jobs from which you would otherwise be precluded. So, with all of this in mind, Spain is moving toward teaching their children English.

This stood out to me because nonprofit and human services is one of my big passions. While I came here with the intention of doing little work while having lots of fun, as most people in my program do, I am glad to know that the bit of work that I will be doing is part of a movement to help those that cannot always help themselves. I feel even more motivated to go into my classroom(s) with energy and enthusiasm so as to facilitate the acquisition of English among my students. I guess, up to this point, I didn't realize the weight of what I was doing. While I have known for some time that English is important and that learning it is a huge "door-opener," I never really thought of this experience in that context; however, after orientation, I now see that there is definitely some solid importance to what I am doing over here. Hopefully, my students will learn from me and I from them.

It is quite funny how all of this seems to work out for me. Except for when I worked at a pharmacy in high school, I have always worked in the nonprofit sector, and sometimes just by accident. My first job in college was as a ticket rep and stadium clerk at a minor league baseball team that turned out to be a nonprofit. I joined a fraternity in college that was very philanthropically minded and that worked very closely with St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. Through my involvement in my fraternity, I had the privilege of spending hundreds of hours volunteering for St. Jude and even spent the better part of two years as an intern in their National Program Marketing department raising money through the development of large scale fundraising programs. After college, I taught high school for two years on the south side of Chicago by way of the Teach for America program, a large, nonprofit educational training and support organization that trains and places teachers in areas within the US that are overwhelmed by poverty, crime, and educational inequality. And, after all of this, I came to Spain to take a little vacation while working a few hours a day, not knowing that the job I was taking was a cause for the people.

Maybe this just reaffirms what it is that I think I want to do with my life one day. My dream is to open up my own nonprofit in the US, and I while I will write an extensive blog post on that topic at some point in the future, I will leave it at that for now. Somehow, and sometimes by accident, I always end up working in nonprofit programs, and I always love it. Obviously, I have not found the one particular job that I love, else I would still be doing it. But, so far, its not the specific jobs that have called me, its the purpose and the cause that are behind those jobs that have garnered my attention. So, perhaps my dreams and passions have somehow aligned with my life's path, a rarity in today's age. My hope is that they will always remain aligned and that I will be one of the few who will have the privilege of waking up everyday to do something that they love...who knows?

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