Thomasena (center) with other SCAN Student Ambassadors from the College of Charleston.
“We are guilty of many errors and many faults, but our worst crime is abandoning the children, neglecting the fountain of life. Many of the things we need can wait. The child cannot. Right now is the time his bones are being formed, his blood is being made, and his senses are being developed. To him we cannot answer ‘Tomorrow’, his name is today.”
– Gabriela Mistral
This profound quote by Chilean poet Gabriela Mistral is, in a sense, why I am so passionate about education. I was interning in Charleston, South Carolina with Students In Missions a year ago and researching ways to get involved with education when I stumbled upon a Save the Children Action Network (SCAN) training event. I decided to attend the event to learn more about SCAN’s advocacy. Once I met SCAN Manager Katy Seppi and Student Ambassador Ridge Welch, I fell in love with the organization. I had never met two people so passionate about the political aspect of education. Their passion was contagious.
I got involved with SCAN shortly after the training and spoke with Ridge about building SCAN’s presence at my school, The College of Charleston. I am now the secretary of SCAN’s College of Charleston club! Despite this, SCAN was not what initially sparked my interest in education.
I grew up in Florence, South Carolina, where I attended a Title 1 elementary, middle and high school, which means the schools were filled with low-income students. Florence is in what locals call “the corridor of shame,” a region of rural, under-resourced school districts along I-95 that are burdened by poverty and poorly performing schools, many of which are Title 1. As I grew up in this area, I noticed the poverty but never fully understood it. Outside of school, I would interact with more affluent kids but we never spoke about the chasm in the way our schools differed. It was when I got involved with the career and technology education program in my school district that I noticed the disparities in the education system.
I became a certified chef at the age of 15, and that changed and challenged my view of what high school students could accomplish. I started my own confectionery company called FairyCakessc and through my company, I am able to teach baking classes to low-income students in the community. This allows me to help students fill the void of what they learn in the classroom and help them apply it to real life. Since I work in rural areas, I am able to help the students understand that the skills they learn in class will not go to waste. This is what truly sparked my desire to be involved in education, – especially career and technology education, as well as policy.
Through my work, I have noticed that curricula are not specific and diverse enough for the students they are supposed to support. Students are not retaining the knowledge learned in the classroom because it is not relatable, and they miss out on high-quality early education, which is essential for a child to grow.
To me, Save the Children Action Network is about advocating for access and the resources students need to have a healthy future. I am so passionate about SCAN because of the grassroots and mobilization work they are doing to accomplish this. Now, as a Student Ambassador, I get to be involved politically as well as work with the South Carolina community to help children and families.
It’s amazing to know that the letters we send, the petitions we sign, the organizing we do, is not done in vain because we are able to see the fruits of our labor through political action. I am proud to be a Student Ambassador and I hope and pray others get involved too!