My name is Gianni Notaro. This summer (2020), I worked as a virtual health and science intern in Nicaragua, teaching Outreach360 students about science while helping to improve their English skills along the way. I live in Los Angeles County in California, and I am a high school junior at Polytechnic School, an independent school in Pasadena, California. My school has had a connection with Outreach360 for some time now, so I found out about the virtual internship through a faculty member at my school. I knew my summer would be mostly spent at home, so I decided this was the perfect opportunity to seek fulfillment and purpose in my summer.
I decided to intern in Nicaragua because education can make a huge difference when it comes to economic and societal improvement, and since Nicaragua has a high level of poverty, I thought my time there could have a real impact on the lives of my students. People in my life have always stressed the importance of education, so I wanted to show kids in a different situation that education is extremely important. I also wanted to develop my Spanish, as I knew that some Spanish classes were offered as part of the program. I know that the ability to speak, read, and write in another language is an extremely valuable life skill that brings tremendous advantages down the road, and I missed out on the opportunity to learn a second language earlier in life. Additionally, I have always had an interest in teaching, so I wanted to take the time to develop my lesson planning skills and work on my patience with children. So, I decided to take the opportunity and I was excited to begin teaching.
Teaching a class virtually was something totally foreign to me, and I realized that there were tradeoffs between in-person learning and virtual schooling. In this situation, virtual classes were a good option because of the coronavirus pandemic. I think that this form of learning, accessible so long as students had access to a device with cellular service, was the right thing to do in the midst of this situation. While it is harder to connect with the students through a mobile phone screen instead of standing in front of them teaching, I feel that the things we learned together were invaluable. For example, my teaching partner and I spent a week delving into the solar system and the universe around us, which provided valuable information like the order of the planets in the solar system and the scale of the universe. On a different topic, we discussed the different organs in the human body and how those organs form systems to perform different functions for the body. I think that we were able to contribute a great deal to Outreach360 students. If you can make the commitment and provide a quality teaching experience, as I feel that my teaching partner and I did, then you should devote your time to this experience.
I learned quite a bit about Nicaragua, Central America, and even some of the tenets of leadership. I was happy that I was able to improve my Spanish over the summer as I continue my language journey in school. I was also exposed to some of the idiosyncrasies of Nicaraguan culture, like unique expressions that I had never heard before in the Spanish language. Although I take Spanish in school and have had the opportunity to practice my Spanish speaking skills in Peru, I had never heard Spanish from Central America. I learned more about what life in Nicaragua is all about, including the native cuisine. I think the Leadership and Social Change course offered some interesting conclusions as well, including some things I can practice in my everyday life. I have been introduced to the idea of global citizenship before, so I have had time to think about what it means, but I was exposed to the concept from a new perspective this summer. We also participated in leadership exercises to help us develop into leaders in the modern world. The virtual cultural experiences in and around Jinotega added valuable insight into what it means to be a part of Outreach360. In terms of teaching, I also improved my lesson planning abilities and other skills associated with teaching, such as the proper way to allocate time to different activities.
To someone who has the opportunity to volunteer as a virtual intern with Outreach360: I urge you to look at the opportunities you have been afforded when it comes to your education over the course of your life.
I felt obligated to share some of the things I have learned at school, especially in the area of science, a segment of schooling that is becoming increasingly important in the modern world. You can make a real difference in these children's lives. If the students value the experience and feel that learning is an important aspect of who they are, it stands to reason that these students will indeed go on to enjoy a good living for themselves and their families.
For more information on Outreach360's virtual internships, please visit www.outreach360.org/virtualimpact.