The Power of Finding Good in New Places
Reflections from TSG’s World Business Chicago Fellow, Marina Nikolić from Croatia
Time flies when you’re having fun. You were just here and now you’re gone. Marina we’re going to miss you here at The Simple Good! We hope to see you in Croatia soon. Marina came to us all the way from Croatia as a member of the World Business Chicago Fellows program. She spent the last month working on developing a justification for an Education Technology platform for TSG. She wrote about her month here with us and shared with a little more about what working with a “higher purpose” means in education, and how important The Simple Good is to her. Check out her inspiring words as she reflects on her month in Chicago!
When I decided to fulfill the Application for the Spring 2019 Tech Innovation and Entrepreneurship Professional Fellows Program, My statement of purpose mentioned that whenever I have opportunity to learn something new, I try to use it, especially if it is opportunity like this. I remember I wrote: I’ve never had a chance to see how any U.S. organization or government agencies work, I’ve never been to a study visit or exchange program in the USA, and I believe that this experience would show me a new perspective.“ And then when WorldChicago offered me this amazing opportunity to come here and work with The Simple Good (TSG), I had no idea that this experience would be so intense, exciting and inspiring in lots of different ways.
When it comes to my job back in Croatia, I work with a project called “e-Schools: a comprehensive informatization of school operation processes and teaching processes aimed at the creation of digitally mature schools for the 21st century”. Without strengthened teachers and the school staff, who are capable and prepared for new technologies, services and teaching approaches, the infrastructure will remain unused leaving the services and content developed within the project discarded. Experiences on similar European projects for the informatization of operational and teaching processes show that a coordinated implementation is indispensable, regarding both infrastructure and education, with an awareness that the foundation of education is the teacher, and the primary focus is on the student. I love the fact that I’m working for “the higher purpose” or “the common good”, in education and teaching. The focus is never money- or customer-related. I guess that makes my experience a unique one, compared to most of my colleague fellows here, and also an extremely good match to the work that TSG does. The Simple Good had me from day one. With this amazing approach to the work they do, and they just do what they love and believe in, and it comes so naturally.
I had a great opportunity to see how a typical art class looks like in one of the schools here in Chicago. I even participated in their Photo Safari through the neighborhood of Little Village in Chicago, with 6th grade students from Madero Middle School, Ms Marquez (their art teacher), and TSG teachers Kham and Rae. We walked around streets, looking for different ‘simple goods’, which they will capture with the camera and present at the final showcase. This experience kind of opened my eyes. TSG brings students outside of their neighborhoods for a powerful purpose and explains how they will use their ‘simple goods’ to change their communities and the world. And the students are amazing, they can turn anything they see into something meaningful.
I was completely unaware that Chicago is so segregated. Just like most of my colleagues, I’ve spent most of my time here in downtown, and downtown is not really the city itself. Actually, I was one of the rare people who went outside of downtown, and spent time in different neighborhoods. What I’ve seen is so diverse that it is really hard to explain to anybody who wasn’t here (and there). Problems here much more serious than ours back home in Croatia, especially when it comes to education. I had no idea… The worst thing about it is that not even people who live up north, in nice and pricey neighborhoods of Chicago, aren’t aware that there are people, children who are living not too far from them, who need help and understanding. TSG is working on solutions for these problems, and helps children to understand better themselves and the community they live in. I love the fact that I was part of their team, and I appreciate this experience so much. Bringing up the ideas of social responsibility, intercultural dialogue and global awareness while fostering a sense of pride in one’s self and community, is not easy. Especially these days. Often children act like adults, and adults act like children… and that is something that is really similar in each and every country, nevertheless the continent people live in.
What is really helpful sometimes is to see and realize that people are all the same all over the world. And they deal with same problems and challenges, they have same needs and desires, no matter where they live, what is the color of their skin and what are they doing. They want to be understood, loved and they want to belong, and that is why the message that TSG is sending is so easy to understand, even for me, coming from Croatia, a country very different from the US (in some many different ways) — “No matter where you go in the world, good means the same to all of us and that is what connects us as human beings.”