My earliest memories of traveling outside the US date back to when I was ten and my mom packed me and my sister up for the summer to go to Guatemala and El Salvador. We ran amok, taught the kids in our neighborhood how to play Slapjack and spent the days learning Spanish. From that point on, I was hooked: world politics, international affairs, foreign languages, and a cornucopia of friends from all of the world. Since then, I have spent time in Latin America, South Asia, East Africa, and Europe as a student and volunteer. In college, I studied abroad in Sri Lanka and Chile, which became source material for my honors thesis on women's political participation in both of those countries. After college, I worked with children with attachment disorders in a residential treatment center. My favorite activities there were doing crafts, teaching kids how to swim and writing plays for the children to perform. I learned a lot about mental health and the deep impact childhood trauma can have on a growing mind. I also learned how important strong relationships were for kids to recover from violence and hardship. I applied to the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame for my M.A. and was accepted. My cohort of classmates was incredible and even though we have gone to the far corners of the world, they are close to my heart (and a fantastic global networking resource!). While in grad school, we were sent out for a semester in the field and I was lucky enough to land an internship at The AIDS Support Organisation in Kampala, Uganda working on gender mainstreaming and community outreach using music, dance and drama. The TASO Drama Group, made up of HIV+ clients who use their talents and life experiences to educate others about HIV/AIDS, was by far the most inspiring and entertaining part of my time in Uganda. Drawing from their inspiration, my M.A. thesis focused on the overlay between the arts, trauma healing and peace building, using an organization in Northern Uganda as a case study. After my M.A. program, I landed a job building a new restorative practices in schools program in sunny Colorado, where I have been living for the past four years. The program trains a team of high school students to lead restorative justice processes in their schools to address crime and conflict with a focus on repairing harm, student leadership and training both youth and adults in classroom and behavior management. The Student Restorative Justice Team was the highlight of my professional life--a diverse group of student volunteers who took the restorative principles of Relationship, Respect, Responsibility, Repair of Harm and Reintegration as the yardstick for their lives. It was so fun watching them grow into leaders in their schools, community and even across the state of Colorado. Now that I am here at Expo, I plan to bring what I learned about youth development and leadership to support my tutors and fellow staff members and am incredibly excited to learn from them as well!
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