Summer (Fellows) in the City: Christina Pao ‘20, Co Lead Youth Summer School Instructor at International Rescue Committee

Christina Pao '20, Co Lead Youth Summer School Instructor at International Rescue Committee  

Christina Pao '20 is a Classics (Greek and Latin) and Political Science major in Branford College who is a Dwight Hall Summer Fellow at International Rescue Committee in Tukwila, WA. This year, Dwight Hall has expanded to offer summer fellowships outside of New Haven for students who are interested in serving their home communities or exploring placements that are not found locally.

Christina Pao smiling in front of a set of blue doors
What is your dream job? 

Something in public service! Honestly, I aspire to be Robert Reich if that counts as a profession.

What is your favorite thing to do in New Haven? 

Runs at East Rock! Or binge-eating at Claire's.

What have you been doing as a summer fellow? 

I have been planning curricula for and teaching 5-10 year old refugee students who have moved to the country less than a year ago. My work day involves both on-site teaching and preparation as well as off-site coordination, planning and communication. The goal of this program is to prepare each of these students to enter Tukwila public schools at the elementary level in the coming fall.

why did you choose to become involved in this type of work as a summer fellow? 

Education is the solution for the future! I come from a family of immigrants who fled their countries during WWII, and many successes along the way can be attributed to their access to good education. I now have five years of teaching experience, and I wanted to continue serving migrant communities with the IRC program this summer!

What have you discovered over the course of your fellowship that has been unexpected or surprising to you?

I have been shocked to be able to actually SEE the affects of budget cuts to education. For a bit of context, the state of WA has had a really hard time for the past few years passing education budgets and was even bordering on government shutdown this past month due to gridlock. In the past two years of this summer program through the IRC, the program has been practically cut in half. As I have been able to see how eager my students are to learn and how bright they are, I have been saddened to see how cutting down the program can make a substantial impact on each of these children. Putting faces to those who are affected by legislation has been heartbreaking for me. Given that I worked this summer in public policy through a state campaign office and with U.S. Senator Patty Murray, this work with the irc has humanized the political process for me.

What inspires you to keep moving forward in your work?

I have learned that community service is for me, in a small and qualified way, selfish! Though teaching young students of such varied backgrounds is exhausting when done with care and love, this work has given back more to me the more I put into it. It is wonderful to do direct service that is fulfilling and rewarding.

What is the best piece of advice you have been given from someone at your site, a participant, or from a Summer Fellow Speaker?

The best advice I had been given before starting with children with whom I shared no common language was this: "remember that the only universal language is love and laughter!"

What do you want to say to those who sponsored this fellowship?

Thank you, thank you, thank you! I feel that I have learned more this summer than I have the past five years of my life. Seriously. This has been an incredible time not only of direct service to those in need, but also of personal growth and introspection. Though some of this experience has opened my eyes to the workings of the public sector, I feel a renewed sense of hope for the future and the change makers that continue to fight for what is right.



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