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Letter from Board Member Kevin McLaughlin

Dear STS Supporters,

As a member of the STS Board of Directors, I have a special place in my heart for education and providing opportunities for youth who are so often overlooked. My passion stems both from my experiences as the son of an English teacher and from my experiences teaching high school English as a Peace Corps volunteer in Lezha, Albania.

I had the privilege of teaching some amazing, highly motivated students who were so eager to learn English from a native speaker. My experience was challenging, yet so rewarding. I recall outdated methodologies that promoted rote memorization over free flowing conversation, students huddling together in the winter in unheated classrooms and grading tests by candlelight during power outages. Those experiences have in part shaped who I am today. They’ve given me an immense appreciation for education and the impact it has on our children.

I’ve been lucky enough to pursue a career in international development. As the current manager of a local governance project in Albania, I received the most unlikely email last year from our manager living in Albania:

“Hello Kevin, I’m sure you have asked, ‘Have I made a difference?’ In part, I’ve discovered the answer for you. We’ve made many good Albanian friends. One guy is a medical doctor, the leading children’s heart surgeon in Albania. He returned here after many years abroad (living in Italy/med training in Guatemala). At only 32 years old, he is now a finalist to be the Director of Albania’s biggest hospital —Mother Teresa. At a dinner this weekend, I was probing his life story. He said that as a young man he was taught English by an American. This guy, named Kevin, urged him to be bold and brave and to move overseas if necessary to pursue his dreams. He lived in Lezha at the time, before moving to Italy with his family. I may be wrong, but I believe you are the man. Make sense?? If yes, I’ll broker a reconnection. His name is Altin. Tiny world I think. Peter”

Indeed, I was the man. Last summer, while working in Albania, I reconnected with my former student Altin again after 17 years! He is exactly the same — full of energy and motivation and still talks a mile a minute! We reminisced about our frigid English classes and his classmates spread across the globe. In this unpredictable world of international development, where the challenges and sacrifices often overshadow the successes, this experience ranks as one of my fondest.

Kevin with his former student in Albania

Kevin with his former student in Albania

My experiences reinforce the power and impact of education and the need to support children worldwide. Through your support you too can make a difference in the lives of children worldwide. STS has implemented its unique Whole Child Model in the West African country of Guinea since 2002. Its holistic approach ensures students have all they need in order to thrive in school through focusing on three areas of need — education, health, and engagement. During the 2013-2014 school year, STS reached nearly 5,500 students in 10 schools. It’s always worthwhile to donate to STS, but it’s especially so from now until the end of the year. We can double the difference STS makes, thanks to a generous donor matching all contributions.

Please give what you can to help students thrive in the classroom and seize a brighter future.

Click here to make your donation.

Thanks for reading.

Kevin McLaughlin

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