Education and Opportunity

Taft is a school filled with almost endless opportunities. Angel Chukwuma is a senior who does her best to take advantage of as many of those opportunities as she possibly can. Angel is currently on track to receive a Global Studies and Service (GSS) Diploma at Commencement next year, and has honed her leadership skills as a Global Leadership Institute (GLI) Scholar. Both the GSS and GLI programs at Taft require exceptional commitment and dedication from participants, with academic obligations both in and out of the classroom, and service work with both local and global reach. Angel is very active in Taft's Community Service program. Locally, she and fellow-GSS candidate Julissa Mota launched a Thanksgiving Food Drive for low-income families in the greater Waterbury area. 

"During the winter term, I also volunteered for a non-profit called Distributed Proofreaders, for which I proofread PDFs of a variety of texts to be used for free virtual libraries," Angel explains. "I took some tests to learn about proper formatting, punctuation, and more."

The worldwide pandemic made it more difficult for Angel to engage in the kind of service travel GSS Diploma candidates often do to fulfill their global service requirements. Just before the pandemic hit, Angel made plans to travel to the Dominican Republic with a group of Taft teachers and students through a program called Outreach360; that trip was cancelled. Over the summer, Angel turned to Outreach360 once again, and, with help from the Robert Keyes Poole Fellowship, signed on as an Outreach360 virtual teaching intern. 

"During the internship, I worked with a set group of students from either Nicaragua or the Dominican Republic. I taught two different class periods, but the classes rotated among the other teachers, so I still did not see the same students every day," Angel explains. "Each class contained about 10 students at most ranging in age from 6 to 12 years old. It was a bit more difficult to get some of the younger students to pay attention in class, but they were definitely an entertaining group!"

Angel entered the program with some teaching experience. As a Wight Foundation Scholar, Angel spent a summer working with third graders at the Boys and Girls Club of Newark, New Jersey. That experience was limited, and very different from teaching virtually.

"One of Outreach360's lead teachers guided us through an orientation period," Angel says. "She performed a demonstration of what effective and ineffective teaching looked like by teaching us Hebrew vocabulary. When she showed how not to teach, I felt very lost and confused, and I knew that I did not want my students to feel like that in class. She also taught us to enunciate, speak at a slower pace, encourage quieter students to participate, and to always congratulate students for trying."

There were moments during Angel's internship that surprised her and amazed her. Like when pet parrots joined a set of siblings for class, and when students spontaneously shouted, 'God bless you,' in gratitude at the end of class. There were also moments that made her swell with pride. 

"I was teaching students the words for different toys, things like bikes, and skateboards," Angel recalls. "I asked a student if he had a bike, and I expected him to simply answer with 'Yes, I do,' or 'No, I don't.' He said, yes, but then went on to say, 'But I want a new bike because my bike is old.' I was so surprised, but also really proud because he formed a much more advanced sentence completely on his own. It was amazing to witness how fast the students learn. Education is an important tool that can open doors for many more opportunities in life. It should not be a privilege, but rather everyone should have the right and access to it. I have known this for a long time, but my experience with Outreach360 made it clearer to me."

Julissa's Outreach 360 teaching internship was made possible in part by a Poole Grant. Established in memory of Robert Keyes Poole '50, a member of Taft's faculty from 1956 to 1962, Poole Fellowships are awarded each year to enable Taft students to engage in summer travel and projects.