Breaking Down Borders
"His smile absolutely made my day, and seeing how much the kids look up to him was incredible.”
Isabela Dobbs grew up in Atlanta, GA and attends a large, diverse high school. Every summer, her youth group takes a mission trip to Nicaragua. Here, students build houses for a community and make amazing relationships with Nicaraguans. Isabela was amazed by how people could form such incredible bonds even though they were separated by a language boundary. These two groups of people were so different, yet they seemed to enjoy each other’s company and create friendships. She noticed how this was not the case at her school. She noticed that everyone seemed to remain in their friend groups and expressed little effort to hang out with new people. Her school, so big, included people of different interests, races, and socioeconomic backgrounds.
She wanted to break the boundary created by neighborhoods in Atlanta and intermix different people. A mentorship program for middle schoolers living in different parts of Atlanta would help break that barrier by allowing others to realize one’s background doesn’t define them and people can still make long-lasting friendships across geographic and socioeconomic lines. Isabela partnered with the Agape Youth & Family Center. Agape is an organization that attempts to break the poverty cycle in a specific area of Atlanta. They do so by providing students with tutoring and many other programs to create responsible, educated students of low income families. With “Breaking Down Borders,” Isabela hopes to create new relationships among kids with different socioeconomic backgrounds in Atlanta.
“I partnered with the Agape Youth and Family Center because I thought it would be cool to make these relationships with kids that live in the same area as me and I might see at school.”
– Isabela Dobbs
Implementation of the Project
Isabela contacted the youth program coordinator at Agape (Marlon) to talk about creating a mentorship program with Agape’s students. Marlon loved the idea of having North Atlanta High School Students mentoring kids who attended the feeder schools of such high school. The two of them set a date and set up 2 action days during Agape’s summer camp.
The action days would take place during the kids’ educational period; as a result, Isabela needed to find a topic to discuss or teach the students. She soon had the perfect idea: leadership! Isabela planned to have 15 students and 15 kids to mentor and have one on one conversations with. Getting these 15 students together wasn’t as easy as she thought. Since her action days were during the summer, a lot of people had undependable schedules or were out of town. Instead, Isabela prepared to have a leadership workshop taught by the high school students. This maximized the amount of kids they could reach without having to scramble last minute for more volunteers. When the action days came around, students talked about leadership, played games, and hung out with the middle-schoolers.
“The kids seemed very comfortable around us and had little trouble opening up. They had absolutely no trouble when it came to cracking jokes and having fun.”
– Isabela Dobbs
Results of Project
Isabela and her action team enjoyed spending time with the Agape students and teaching them about leadership. Isabela had about 10 volunteers and mentored roughly 20 students. The leadership workshop occurred over 2 days. The mentees were all middle school students who attend Sutton Middle School. This particular middle school feeds into Isabela’s current high school. Overall, the Agape students were educated about leadership by older students.
“The best part was seeing the Agape students hand their counselor a sheet of paper that listed all the characteristics that made him a leader. His smile absolutely made my day, and seeing how much the kids look up to him was incredible.”
– Isabela Dobbs
Isabela plans to continue working with Agape throughout her junior and senior year. Specifically, she plans to meet with these children once a month during the school year. She hopes that the amount of people who participate in Breaking Down Borders will grow and eventually evolve into a one-on-one mentorship with these middle school students. Every summer, Isabela plans to continue doing mission work in Nicaragua.