ARLINGTON, Va. (WDVM) — Northern Virginia has some of the highest-ranking schools in the country, and Arlington Tech students wanted to share their educational opportunities with students in Liberia.
The students got the idea from listening to their Arlington Tech math teacher, Isaac Zawolo, tell stories about growing up in the West African country.
Zawolo immigrated to the United States from Liberia in 1998. After seeing the advanced technology and hands-on learning in Arlington, he wanted to find a way to bring the same educational opportunities to Liberian students.
The educator opened two schools in the country — one in 2020, and another this past January. He says the opportunities provided to the students at his schools are unlike any other in the region.
“We have first graders playing with technology. That’s uncommon to Liberia. It’s uncommon to most African countries,” said Zawolo.
A group of teens at Arlington Tech — Abigail Herrada, Ava Gutshall and Talia Penn — chose to help their teacher’s school for their honor society project.
We decided that collecting donations would do the most for them, so we can give them the money to buy their own things,” said Gutshall.
The students started a GoFundMe for donations, in addition to collecting essential items — such as eyeglasses and menstrual products for young women.
“If a woman can’t have access to tampons or pads, they can’t go to school,” said Herrada.
The students are also collecting iPads and computers.
“They need technology. In the 21st century, that’s what everything’s based off of now. So we’re really trying to help push them forward,” said Penn.
Zawalo said he is overwhelmed but not surprised by the support and compassion his students have shown for a cause so dear to his heart.
“Their world view is amazing. They want to help. It wasn’t surprising that they wanted to do something for people outside. It was surprising that they wanted to do it for me,” said Zawolo.