By Kasey Hartung
Now that I am finally back in my “home away from home” for year three of Crossover Academy, I can’t help but notice the differences from year one and appreciate the things that have stayed the same in Chennai. The hot air and heavy humidity still wreak havoc on my body, but oddly, I appreciate their familiarity consuming me as I look around and see how much the infrastructure on the streets has changed over the past three years. Mere stick structures have converted into colorful concrete buildings and a field near our residence that was previously overflowing with trash and debris has transformed into a lovely playground.
I see these improvements and I am proud to be playing a small role in the growth of this grand country and to witness the changes firsthand.
When I was introduced to the program two years ago, I was immediately attracted to the unique experiences that a service-learning trip like this would offer. Traveling across the globe for the very first time to work with a new culture and impact the lives of young people in Chennai – I was compelled from the start.
As a basketball player, the idea of using basketball as a universal language to communicate gave me the confidence to leave the comforts of home and discover a new family across the globe in our enthusiastic and appreciative campers. There is nothing I value more than education and the fact that Crossover’s mission is to promote the lifelong scholarship of India’s future leaders makes this a program like no other.
We have only been here for a little over a week now and I can already see changes in the children’s view of education when we visit area schools.
The teachers share with us how active and engaged their students have been since participating in Crossover. When I asked one of the students what she learned at Crossover this week, she told me, “Akka (Big Sister), I learned leadership, character, teamwork, and communication.”
I only have one week remaining in my third year of Crossover Academy and the program’s four pillars of success weigh heavily on my mind as I prepare to teach the kids on the court and in the classroom. Three years later, the campers’ genuine smiles are still present, but so are the low education rates. But I am ready to continue engaging and learning from them through conversations that allow me to peek into their home and school lives away from Crossover.
At a rather young age, I knew I desired to make a difference in the world and the most effective way to do so was to actually go and immerse myself in the communities I wanted to serve. What I never expected was how truly consequential our impact would be in our students’ lives and the undeniable impact they would have on my life as well.