Aisha Kamara, a December 2016 graduate and ASPiRE alumna, will leave for Rwanda this fall to serve for two years with the Peace Corps.
The international studies major from Bristol, Va. will be a secondary education English teacher, working with the “Let Girls Learn/Let Girls Work” program, a government initiative implemented by Michelle Obama that ensures young women around the world are given access to quality education to help eradicate the cycle of poverty.
Kamara said her experience in ASPiRE is what gave her the confidence and inspiration to apply for the Peace Corps.
“Being part of ASPiRE taught me the different between volunteering and serving,” she said. “Service is a long-term commitment to being present and building trusted relationships with community partners.”
As an ASPiRE student, Kamara participated in the Spring Break Urban Plunge program, which immerses students in the history of Richmond and provides education about local social issues and community problem solving. The students also volunteered with organizations that work to eradicate the problems addressed in the program.
“A lot of what we saw and learned put the pieces of the puzzle together, helping us understand why some of the city’s communities are separated the way they are, and why there is a need to partner in the city to help bring these communities up,” she said. “I think so many students come to Richmond without a back story, and we don't understand what it used to be. This connection helped put our service into perspective and made me want to see the community prosper.”
Since her first year at VCU, Kamara also served as a conversation partner for international students. She said that experience taught her that “the only difference between us was language” and that everyone should be treated with respect.
“I wanted to do Peace Corps to continue that notion of respect and act as an ambassador for the United States, demonstrating our diversity and openness as a people by assimilating myself into a new culture and becoming one of them,” she said. “I hope to one day work in international development and education policy worldwide with an international organization. The best way to set myself on that path, I believe, is to understand the people that these policies will be supporting.”