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Global Opportunities open eyes to the world

by Krista Habermehl, MA'05 | June 27, 2017

Jerome Reid, BEd’17 (pictured bottom right), spent a week in Nicaragua teaching English to elementary students thanks to a Global Opportunities Award. He said the experience was life-changing.

In an open-air, cement-block building — with nothing more than papers, pencils and chairs — Western Education teacher candidate Jerome Reid taught English to a class of Nicaraguan elementary school students.

“I’ve never been to Nicaragua. It’s the second poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere, next to Haiti. It was sad to see how poor these people are. Some of these kids showed up with no shoes. It made me appreciate what we have here in Ontario — with all the resources we take for granted. It made me appreciate my own upbringing in Canada and its school system. It made me appreciate my education from Western,” said Reid, BEd’17, who participated in an international outreach initiative through this past spring thanks to a Western University Global Opportunities Award.

What the students lacked in books, technology and even proper footwear, however, Reid said they made up for with an eagerness to learn.

“The experience allowed me to change the lives of those students and encourage their appreciation for teachers and a love for learning, which I hope will lead to the pursuit of their own postsecondary education and a better quality of life.”

In addition to having an indelible impact on the students, Reid said the overseas experience opened his own mind to new perspectives — and he returned home after the week abroad, further invigorated to become a “second career” teacher, having previously worked for Canada Revenue Agency and trained as a Police Constable Candidate.

“It’s changed my life. Now, I’m able to change the lives of others. It was just an amazing experience. They connected with me. I connected with them. And they were more engaged the more I spoke in class. As a Canadian citizen, it makes me more aware of the world,” he added.

Since the Global Opportunities Awards program was first launched at Western in 2012, approximately 1,000 students (around 200 each year) from faculties across the university have received either $1,000 or $2,000 awards allowing them to study, intern, conduct research and engage in community development or learning opportunities around the world.

Many of the awards are made possible thanks to donor support — and more than $900,000 has been raised to establish Global Opportunities Awards from approximately 80 generous donors.

“The funds that donors provide are worth multiple times the dollar value,” Reid said. “It compounds and the benefit is exponential. I’ve benefited, which transfers on to benefiting these kids and they will benefit their families in the future — it just keeps going on and on.”

The purpose of Global Opportunities Awards is to give Western students who otherwise wouldn’t have the means to pursue an international learning experience, the opportunity to do so.

“Western is committed to providing international learning opportunities for our students. To live and work in the world today we need high levels of cross-cultural competence and intercultural understanding. By participating in academically relevant international experiences, students develop the skills, perspectives and knowledge required to become global citizens and leaders,” said Julie McMullin, Vice-Provost & Associate VP (International). “Our students want and deserve these opportunities. International education is transformational and the skills learned will last a lifetime.”

Western will match, dollar for dollar, any donation to a Global Opportunities Award. Recipients are selected based on a combination of academic achievement, cost of the program and proposed length of study.

As a single father of two, Reid, who commuted from Toronto to London each week to keep a stable home life for his kids while attending Western’s Bachelor of Education program, said the lifechanging opportunity to teach students in Nicaragua would not have been possible without the financial support of the Global Opportunities Award.

“That award helped alleviate some of my financial burdens so I could focus on the experience. The experience was like boot camp for me. If I can do a lesson plan the night before with just pencil and paper, I can do lesson plans here in Ontario within a school board. It’s a breeze. It just changed me and my perspective on life, on my career, on school, on London, on everything. It was a totally positive experience. It all came from this award — it just changed me.”

For more information, or to make a donation to support or establish a Global Opportunities Award, contact Sheri Cole, Director, Leadership Giving (519.661.2111 ext. 88856 or or visit

This article appeared in the Summer 2017 edition of Impact Western
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