AWOL Experience Shines Light on Career Path for BVU Junior
Wava Jarr spent spring break working with Outreach 360, a program in the Dominican Republic. She joined 11 BVU representatives on the island in the Caribbean Sea as part of the University’s traditional Alternative Week of Offsite Learning.
A week of work thousands of miles from home ignited a passion for Buena Vista University junior Wava Jarr. The experience has her yearning to teach English Language Learners while using art to open windows for communication.
Jarr, an art education major from Fairfield, spent spring break working with Outreach 360, a program in the Dominican Republic. She joined 11 BVU representatives on the island in the Caribbean Sea as part of the University’s traditional Alternative Week of Offsite Learning (AWOL). Twelve BVU students and professors/staff spent the same week addressing environmental efforts and working in animal advocacy on Catalina Island off the coast of California.
The 2019 efforts represented BVU’s 21st AWOL service treks. While it was Jarr’s first AWOL, it left an indelible impression.
“I want students around the world to learn; I also want to learn from my students.”
“After the AWOL experience, I want to add the English Language Learning component to my art education major,” she says. “It was an eye-opening, ah-ha experience for me.”
The key moment came during a session in which seven BVU students worked with 40 second-graders at a school that’s part of the Outreach 360 program in the Dominican Republic. Jarr worked with two students on a vocabulary unit and saw the children’s eyes grow wide as illustrations were utilized to label objects in both Spanish and English. At that moment, Jarr says, she realized how her passion for art could be used to lift a study of language.
“It showed me how art can be used, not only in special education through sensory integration, which I have studied, but also in opening doors for language,” she says.
Jarr spoke about her career epiphany as the AWOL participants gathered for a recognition banquet on campus last week. Other students shared their insights and photos from their week of service work. Jarr expressed gratitude for BVU professors and staff whose passion to share learning opportunities with students ultimately directed Jarr to the Dominican Republic.
Service experiences such as the AWOL experiences are underwritten in large part through gifts from the Henry and Lucile Eggink Endowment, as well as fundraisers organized by AWOL participants and those involved in BVU Student Mobilizing Outreach and Volunteer Efforts (MOVE).
“I love to travel and learn and grow through the experience of being in other places,” Jarr says. “My goal is to become as culturally competent in as many places as I can be. I think it will serve me and my students as a teacher in the future.”
Jarr is now considering BVU’s Plus 1 Teaching English as a Second Language (TESL) master’s degree program, thanks to the AWOL experience. She aims to have an English Learning Language endorsement by the time she earns her bachelor’s degree with the master’s completion occurring one year later.
Before earning those diplomas, she plans to add travel/service efforts to her experience. She may return to Outreach 360 as an intern within the next calendar year.
“I’d really like to one day student-teach in Asia and then teach in Africa,” she says. “I want students around the world to learn; I also want to learn from my students.”
The AWOL experience, she reiterates, had a lasting impact.
“The culture in the Dominican Republic is different from what I’ve experienced as an Iowan,” she says. “And yet, the people made us all feel so much at home. We were there for just one week and the hardest part involved me telling the students, ‘No manana.’”
In English, it means, “No tomorrow.”
“And yet, now I think that might change,” Jarr concludes. “There might be a tomorrow for me there.”
The following BVU students and professors/staff members participated in the 2019 AWOL experience. Education in the Dominican Republic: Hannah Reno, Wava Jarr, Kylie Roe, Megan Wassom, Alyssa Donnelly, Abby Ross, Mathew Marroquin, Kassidy Chandler, and Isabel Haas, and advisors Rev. Ken Meissner and Dr. Leslie Haas.
Environmental efforts on Catalina Island: Emma Hartz, Brittany Tillman, Cory Goodwin, Emily White, Savannah Adkins, Amanda Miley, Jacob Hull, Rachel Kerhberg, Valeria Cota, and Greg Haaf, and advisors Briana Roberts and Dr. Ben Maas.