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Project zooms in on future leaders, social trailblazers

Special to The Dallas Examiner | 8/25/2014, 11:51 a.m.
Project Zoom! is a non-profit organization that has taken on the challenge on equipping and inspiring the next generation of ...
Project Zoom! staff, KIPP: Truth Academy students and parent chaperones pose in front of The Hector Peterson Memorial and Museum in Johannesburg. Mercedes Fulbright

Special to The Dallas Examiner

Project Zoom! is a non-profit organization that has taken on the challenge on equipping and inspiring the next generation of social innovators with the tools to change the world. Its projects build confidence and leadership qualities in students from underserved communities through technology and interactive workshops, as well as exposure to various cultures and historic landmarks across the globe.

The project is comprised of two components, Zoom In and Zoom Out.

On Feb. 1, Mercedes Fulbright with Project Zoom! began facilitating the Zoom In phase with eight graders at KIPP: Truth Academy. For six months, the students studied about Nelson Mandela’s leadership and positive impact on humanity during Saturday morning sessions.

From July 18 to July 25, Fulbright escorted the seven students to New York and South Africa as part of the Zoom Out phase.

While in New York City, the group participated in Mandela Day, which includes 67 minutes of community service activities. They also received an official welcome from the consul general at the South Africa Consulate.

Two days later, the students zoomed off to Johannesburg where they listened to a presentation from the CEO of the Nelson Mandela Bangle program, which is building libraries in impoverished schools through the sale of bangle bracelets – a program that Project Zoom! also takes part in. They learned about social entrepreneurship and toured businesses like the Bangle program that are making a difference in the world to show them that business can do well and serve a good cause at the same time.

They also heard from NBA Arica executive and toured the Soweto Township.

“Our journey to South Africa has forever changed my life, the beauty of the landscape, the depth of our culture, the struggle of the people. Soweto and Alexandra will be forever in my heart,” expressed Audrey Hayes, a parent chaperone.

They also met members of the Mandela family.

The last two days abroad were spent in Cape Town, where the group went on a safari and toured Table Mountain. The tour concluded with a tour of Robben Island, where Mandela was sent after being sentenced to life imprisonment.

“After leaving Constitution Hill, Johannesburg – prison where Nelson Mandela and other political prisoners were held – I knew that no one or thing could stop me from making an impact and I knew from that point on that a legacy was going to be left by Ciara Edwards,” said Ciara Edwards, a student participant.

The projects are funded by independent donors through The Dallas Foundation. To raise money for their trip, the project built a Go Fund Me page and sold Mandela bangles – which are still available for purchase in the Z Shop at http://www.project-zoom.org.

“Project Zoom! allowed not only the students, but their parents and our instructors to grow, improving our community. Allowing our scholars to hear from business leaders in the Dallas area and experiencing Johannesburg and Cape Town will forever change their perspective of what they can achieve as the next generation global leader,” stated Executive Director Matt Houston.