The iSanctuary Academy broke ground one month ago. Before the first day of class, we earnestly anticipated opening the doors—exhilarated at the prospect of introducing our meticulously hewn, cutting edge program, but also a smidge nervous about jumping into unexplored territory. Today, we already see the budding successes in the growing interests and capacities of the young women enrolled in the learning community. Our students arrive promptly at 8:30 every morning—some bouncy and ready to go, some still sleepy and stirring gradually through the infectious energy of their classmates. In the past four weeks, we’ve seen shier girls begin speaking out more in class, and watched apprehensive students willingly ask questions, offer responses, and engage in intellectual exercises. Garnering a committed base of eager learners, who arrive each day with completed homework and a motivated attitude perhaps appears a small milestone. But right now, we are celebrating these small victories. These are the signifiers that girls whose educations have been cruelly interrupted can have a second chance. These fledgling successes demonstrate that our students are learning every day life skills—habits that people without histories of trauma might take for granted, such as arriving on time, consistently completing assignments, and taking initiative—that will propel them forward in their education and social experiences. The daily attendance and engagement of our young women in the classroom show us that they are willing to confront challenges and committed to improving their lives through education.
At iSanctuary, we believe that education equips students with the tools to understand perspectives and experiences beyond their own and to advance their communities. Many studies indicate that access to education diminishes poverty, reduces gender-based violence, and lowers risk of enslavement. Based on an ardent faith in the power of education to act as catalyst for change, we have spent the last year researching, planning, designing, evaluating, and (just recently) launching The Academy—an educational space built for and by the specific needs of our iSanctuary community.
Most of the survivors at iSanctuary have not completed elementary school. Traffickers who forced our participants into bondage and families who did not see the value in educating girls put an early and unjust end to many survivors’ educations. In hopes of fortifying the scope, diversity, and sustainability of the possibilities in our participants’ futures, The Academy intends to give our participants another chance at the education they were denied. Through a varied curriculum of basic math, science, social studies, computers, English, Hindi, writing, health, life skills, and financial planning classes, participants in The Academy can now fill in the gaps in their education, while developing their academic interests, personal strengths, and professional skills. Our objective is to prepare participants for independent lives by developing critical thinking, decision-making, emotional wellness, community building, creativity, and leadership.
In 2013, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan proclaimed, “Education is the key to eliminating gender inequality, to reducing poverty, to creating a sustainable planet, to preventing needless deaths and illness, and to fostering peace.” As we foster an empowering and supportive environments for the girls to explore their curiosities and dreams, together, we push towards a more peaceful and enfranchised future.
By Kate Poor, Communication Liaison & Alyson Emory Holsclaw, Program Developer