Studying 4,045 miles away from West Virginia was only a physical hurdle for one West Virginia University Foundation Scholar who didn’t let the distance interfere with connecting to a West Virginia elementary school.
Paul Garton, a philosophy and international studies major, participated in a study abroad program at Al Akhawayn University in Ifrane, Morocco, in the spring. During his time there, Garton was able to gain invaluable experience, meet new people and see different parts of the world that he couldn’t wait to share.
“I felt that I was given this amazing opportunity,” Garton said. “I wanted to make the most of my time here by finding ways to connect my experience back to the people of West Virginia. I was sent here on behalf of WVU, and I feel that I owe it to the citizens I represent to make them a part of my time here if I can.”
Garton was approached by Wynne Proudfoot, a fourth grade teacher at West Taylor Elementary School in Taylor County, to teach a webinar to her class about his experiences, the culture and the people in Morocco.
“It is very important for our students to learn what life is like for people in all parts of the world,” Proudfoot said. “At West Taylor Elementary, we look for every opportunity to integrate cross-cultural learning through our content standards and objectives for each subject. I knew that Paul would be the perfect person to teach students about the similarities and differences of life in North Africa, which is a region many students know little about.”
Proudfoot’s son, Chad, of WVU Extension Service, connected the parties using Wimba Classroom to allow Garton to present a PowerPoint slideshow, as well as talk in real time with Proudfoot and her students. Garton said he was happy to have the opportunity to act as an agent for positive change.
“I wanted to take this opportunity to be able to speak to younger folks and help dispel stereotypes and untrue beliefs that are sometimes felt about the Arab world,” Garton said. “I believe that if we educate youth at an early age about understanding other cultures and embracing differences, then we can make great strides in trying to ensure a more peaceful world for future generations. I’m committed to trying to make a positive impact in this regard.”
The students have already told their teacher that they want to learn about life in other countries, Proudfoot said.
Garton hopes to dedicate his career to public service through international relations and peace-building, as well as education through positive youth development. As a West Virginia 4-H All-Star, he credits 4-H with having a major impact on his focus, and he hopes to remain involved with the organization throughout his life to have an impact on global engagement and education.
“Paul’s leadership abilities and dedication to public service are evident in everything he does,” Proudfoot said, “and our students are able to benefit from his knowledge, dedication, and drive to be a change agent for global engagement.”
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