Today is Christmas. While it is a time to celebrate family, friends, love, and if you’re religious, the higher powers you have faith in- it is also important to remember those who might not have the privilege of spending this holiday season surrounded by love or with a roof over their head.
This holiday season I am reminded of the importance of taking a step back from my PhD and reflecting on why I do my work and who I aim to serve. I started my career in Education after working for a non-profit organization by the name of Camp Phoenix. We empower youth by providing opportunities to attend a 3-week summer camp in the outdoors.
Low-income youth often fall significantly behind their higher income peers, due to lack of access to learning and enrichment resources. We work to close this gap where it matters most – middle school – through a program that combines academics with outdoor adventure and social-emotional learning. We want our campers to become leaders in their schools and community.
I began working with Camp Phoenix in their first year and have been a part of the journey ever since. As much as the lives of our campers are transformed each summer, my own life was immeasurably changed as a result of becoming a part of the Phoenix Phamily. I went for an MPhil in Education & Social Justice, I decided to stay on for a PhD. All of this because I spend 3-weeks of my summer learning, singing, laughing, and crying with about 70 children.
What do I want to do with my life? I’m at a crossroads– torn between a career in academia and a career working in non-profit or grass-roots level organizations. My blog has largely been written in standard academic-language, using vocabulary largely inaccessible to those who are not in the social sciences. Am I accessible to more than those inside the “ivory tower”? What impact will my PhD have on those who moved me so much in the first place that I began studies in Education? What impact will my future career have on them? What have I learned in the course of the PhD that I can bring to those who have been marginalized, oppressed, disempowered, and silenced? Can I help give others a voice? Can I provide multiple voices?
On this day, I am faced with a multitude of questions. I don’t have all the answers, but I know I need to start answering them if I am to find where I truly belong after this marathon of a journey. Not once have I regretted doing a PhD or felt bored by my subject– sure elements of data analysis or write-up can be tedious, but my topic gives me energy. I am passionate about it. I am also passionate about the injustices I see pervading our world and the little being done to help those who historically have been cast to the peripheries. I hope my work, both now and in the future, will do something for those communities–communities of color, communities in poverty, communities plagued by violence brought on by the State, communities plagued by violence full-stop, communities where children are told they aren’t destined for certain futures or, even worse, communities where children are unable to obtain the futures they hope for themselves due to structural limitations and systemic racism and inequality. I hope their holidays are filled with joy and faith that change to the system is possible, even in these challenging times.