There’s a stereotypical assumption that most high school students are shallow, self-absorbed, and unable to focus on anything beyond their phone screen. Thankfully, young people like 17-year-old Theo demonstrate a different reality.
Theo is currently a Senior at Lincoln High School. When Theo was in elementary school, Sister Schools came to his school. He was fascinated to learn about Uganda culture, and excited by the idea of sharing his love for sports with students on the other side of the world. While Sister School’s focus is on academic materials, our history is closely tied to sports education as well, and we still accept donations of sporting equipment. Founder Terry McGill first visited Uganda through a sports education outreach program, and we have consistently seen gifts of sports equipment build excitement for education in Uganda as well as increasing student wellbeing. For Theo, that connection to sports was the key that first got him excited about Sister Schools.
After donating some sports equipment, Theo saw those gifts in the hands of Ugandan students at the Sister Schools return presentation. It was a moment he’ll never forget. He was amazed to see the giant smiles on Ugandan students’ faces, and how happy these simple gifts made them. After seeing the return presentation, Theo realized this went way beyond sports equipment. He explained “The thing that stuck with me was how happy they were each time they received school supplies or sporting equipment. And I wanted to contribute to that. Sometimes I take education for granted, and they don’t do that.”
As Theo grew older, he continued to remember his peers in Uganda. When it came time to plan a service project for his Bar Mitzvah, the first thing he thought of was Sister Schools. Theo spent hours setting up donation stations at local schools and community centers, and educating others about the opportunity they had to make a difference for students in Uganda. He collected boxes and boxes of sports equipment, and added all of them to our container shipment. You have only to look at the smile on his face to see how excited he was to share these gifts with his peers in Uganda.
Looking back on his whole experience, Theo sees two key takeaways. This first is the reminder of how privileged he is. He explained, “I realized how many parts of my daily routine I take for granted and that I take less joy out of little things then they do.” In our world of plenty it is so easy to forget how lucky we are to have our daily needs met. Seeing Ugandan students’ reactions to even the smallest gifts helped shift Theo’s perspective.
The second lesson for Theo was the satisfaction there is in making a difference. “I think everyone should have an opportunity to learn about the world. It is not fair that they don’t have as easy access to education as we do,” he said. Thankfully, through Sister Schools he could do something about it! “I learned how much joy I feel from giving to others,” he explained, and it’s something he intends to continue for years to come.
Theo’s story is exactly what we hope to see for all our Seattle program participants. Learning about Ugandan culture and the world beyond our own community inspires students towards a lifetime of giving back and making a difference. Young leaders like Theo will build a brighter future both here at home and around the world.