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UCPS high school students urged to ‘Take risks in service of others’

Rye Barcott, author of "It Happened on the Way to War," and cofounder of Carolina for Kibera, talks to a group of high school students, urging them to get involved in service to others.

About 340 high school students from around the county learned a powerful lesson yesterday (November 7, 2012) – one person can make a difference in the world.

Students from the 11 UCPS high schools gathered in the auditorium at Central Academy of Technology and Arts to hear Rye Barcott tell his story.

“Globalization is a part of our mantra here in Union County,” Deputy Superintendent David Clarke told students. “We want to prepare you to be globally competitive. We want to prepare you to be global citizens and to have an understanding of the world. I think Mr. Barcott will provide you with some of those tools.”

Barcott is the author of "It Happened on the Way to War," a memoir about his service in the U.S. Marines while cofounding Carolina for Kibera, an organization that develops leaders and prevents violence to the people of Kibera.

Carolina for Kibera is a non-governmental organization that uses a unique model of what Barcott calls “participatory development.”

“Don’t assume that you’re the one who will actually drive the changes,” he explained. “You don’t have to have all the answers and solutions to problems and places that you’ll never fully understand. The real way to make an impact is to work with others and build long-term relationships that are rooted in trust.”

Dr. Rachel Clarke, one of the organizers of the lecture, said she hoped Barcott’s story would empower students.

“As Margaret Mead (an American cultural anthropologist) said, ‘It only takes one person to change the world.’ Here’s a perfect example of a guy from North Carolina, someone just like us who is making a lot of difference. So the students can, too. I want them to feel empowered.”

Barcott told students that while in college, he traveled to Kibera in Kenya one summer, trying to understand the culture and why violence often occurs in these types of villages. He spent five weeks living in Kibera where he paid $13 a month to rent a 10-by10-foot shack.

“Imagine living with your parents, your brothers and sisters in an area that is no larger than your bedroom,” he said. “You’re separated from your neighbors by a thin piece of tin, that’s no thicker than your thumb nail. The noise never stops. And right outside your door is sewage. It doesn’t just smell bad; it’s also something that can endanger you. Life is really hard and at times feels really unfair.”

While serving in the Marine Corps, Barcott returned to Kibera with a plan. That’s when Carolina for Kibera was born. “Talent is universal, but opportunity is not,” he explained. “So how can we best connect talent with opportunity?”

For Barcott, it was creating Carolina for Kibera, an organization that today impacts more than 250,000 people, many of whom live on less than two dollars per day.

“Mr. Barcott’s story is such a great one, that it may touch the lives and change the course of someone’s future here today,” said Dick Baker, Director of the Union County Education Foundation, which underwrote the event.

“We want to provide opportunities for students to hear and experience a variety of topics from recognized leaders that will open their minds to new ideas, open their imaginations to new insight and their hearts to make a difference in the world.”

Written by: Deb Coates Bledsoe, UCPS Communications Coordinator
Posted: Nov 08, 2012 by Deb Coates Bledsoe

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