"Let your vision be world-embracing, rather than confined to your own self."
- Baha'i Writings
"Take the time to learn how to see" is one of the last lines of The Visionary—and one of the most telling. I've been trying to do that my whole life, since my inner vision has often felt clouded by sensory overload—a.k.a materialism. In my adolescence, I decided to try to see more clearly through the lens of global education and intercultural learning. I've received some pats on the back and accolades along the way for being the first one ever in my large, Latino family to receive a doctorate in international education, but that's not the point. Have I remained true to my personal vision of wanting to make the world a better place, by being a capable facilitator of knowledge that empowers people to better care for each other through mutual understanding and empathy?
I've always had an innate vision of helping people, not in a self-serving, #hashtagactivist, social media sorta way (which can be good for some). My vision was born of a passion seeded by my upbringing to see all members of the human race as part of the same family. I've always thought that education is a key to transforming the human condition. I tried to put that into practice in my younger years by befriending the only deaf girl in my elementary school; by shielding an African-American girl in my second grade class from being beaten by some white boys (this was the early 70s in Florida); by talking a woman out of committing suicide in my early 20s. I did not do this to get noticed, I just saw it as the right thing to do in life. It always made me—and still does—happy.
At 18, I decided to continue to hone in on my sense of perception by doing a gap year in Latin America to improve my Spanish and to study socioeconomic development through rural education. I had the honor of living and volunteering with teachers from Colombia, Costa Rica and Panama, and learned a great deal about primary schools without walls—i.e., how to teach with very little to no resources. We practiced teaching children while sitting under trees. That year was transformative—it set me on my course. After that I completed my B.A. in education and went all the way to an Ed.D. in international educational development. I taught diverse topics ranging from bilingual education in Massachusetts and Costa Rica to HIV/AIDS education in Tanzania.
I've been told that the education I've provided through my doctoral research (published in a graduate-level textbook called Critical Approaches to Comparative Education) has literally saved people's lives, and that inspires me to keep going, to further refine my vision to act as a catalyst for others—because in the end it's not about me or my career.
I still love what I do and I do what I love: fostering global citizenship through intercultural learning programs for youth. To serve that purpose, I’ve directed innovative, school outreach programs at two prominent global learning organizations: Global Nomads Group
and AFS Intercultural Programs USA
. The missions of both organizations call for promoting peace by fostering global awareness and understanding among the world’s youth, so I feel right at home. For me, facilitating intercultural communication with adolescents from diverse backgrounds is a key step toward fostering global citizenship and eradicating ethnocentrism.
Margaret Mead's words ring true for me as I look to the future, and how my work might make an impact:
"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has."
~ Tonya Muro