By Sydney Sparks
As one of the founding members of the Student Philanthropy Board at UK, senior Kendall Hitch hopes students realize that they don't have to wait until after they gradate college to make an impact, they can start now.
In fact, she is leading by example. The political science major, who minors in Latin American studies and international studies, has already made an impact through a nonprofit organization that she started last year.
Hitch worked abroad in Guatemala with Asociación Vida, an organization that teaches English as a second language to children. Since volunteers only stay for a month or two to help teach English, Hitch noticed that there were large gaps in learning periods for the children. She wanted to create a more sustainable way for the children to continue their English language lessons even after the volunteers left.
"What I and another volunteer did was raise money for an initial start up for computers and webcams for the children, and we started enrolling volunteers to be virtual teachers," Hitch said. "We wanted to create an online English learning supplement for kids that is run by English teachers and English speakers."
Through these efforts, her nonprofit, Abroadband Connections, was born. The program focuses on one-on-one tutoring sessions by volunteers teaching English abroad from their homes to children in Guatemala.
"Not only is the idea of the organization to give these language skills and opportunities in order to help people learn English, but also to provide a cultural exchange for volunteers," Hitch said.
Ever since she was young, Hitch has had a passion for philanthropy and helping others in different cultures. In middle school and high school, she got involved with a group of students who were raising money to help build a school in Ghana. When she started college at UK, she began to go on various study abroad trips to South Africa, China, Mexico, Argentina, Guatemala and Nicaragua, where she was able to work with a lot of literacy and English language development programs in schools and with local non-governmental organizations.
"When I came to UK, I started really engaging with study abroad and intercultural experiences," Hitch said. "I wanted to give back to the communities and to create more opportunities for the people that I was meeting in those cultural experiences. Philanthropy was always the answer to that."
She is graduating in December 2018 and plans to move to Mexico to work in a bilingual school. She is also a pursuing a hybrid master's degree in educational technology with the goal of learning how to develop new language programs for students and to make education more accessible around the world.
Looking towards the future, Hitch hopes to keep growing her nonprofit and expand it to other schools in various countries around the world through new technology.
"My goals for the future are to expand upon educational technology as a form of social justice and to use technology as an access point for language education," Hitch said.