The Gulliver Prep Silver Knight nominee in the area of Art is Ashley Ubalijoro, who spends her summers in Rwanda teaching art to elementary and middle school students.
Rwanda is her father’s birthplace where he still has his childhood home. She visits in the summer and goes to the nearby school to teach art to children who wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity to learn art. She also brings the supplies.
“I go all morning and I’ll teach them art,” she says. “I’ll usually have activities planned for each day and I’ll bring in the supplies that I need.”
She’s been volunteering at the school since she was nine.
“I think that my father was my main motivation to start working with the students,” she says. “I used to find myself being really bored whenever I would stay at the house and therefore, one year, my dad proposed that I start teaching kids at the school as a past time. After a while, I began to enjoy and therefore decided to keep doing it every year afterward.”
Initially she taught the kids English but didn’t find that exciting and eventually switched to teaching art.
“I think it’s interesting how I got to form connection with the kids because there is a huge language barrier,” she says.
Because the children might not have a lot of drawing skills, she teaches art through arts and crafts projects.
“We’ll make origami. It involves cutting and making circles,” she says. “Or we’ll make ornaments that you hang on the wall.”
Personally, Ubalijoro likes to draw and paint.
“I’m mostly into portraits. I’ll take pictures and recreate them,” she says. “I mostly do either people or dogs.”
She’s recently being doing charcoal portraits of dogs.
In college, she’s considering a double major with art or a minor in art.
“I’m really interested in criminal justice and being a lawyer,” she says.
She’s specifically interested in becoming a defense attorney.
“Ever since I was really young, I’ve had the ability to be witty and I managed to get myself out of tricky situations a lot of the time,” she says. “After watching documentaries on true stories of people who had been wrongly incarcerated, I had the urge to learn more about criminal justice and to become someone who could help people who are discriminated against or falsely accused.”
She is a co-founder of the school’s first ever Black Culture Club.
“We gathered students who would be interested in taking part in the club or being part of the board, and ever since then, the club has not stopped growing,” she says. “Our first big activity was our celebration of Kwanzaa. We gathered singers to perform at our school and had a meeting during which we brought in ethnic foods and taught those who attended about Kwanzaa.”
The club’s second big activity was Black History Month. They placed banners around the school that she painted with the help of some art students that raise awareness about Black History Month.
They also hung pictures of famous African American figures on the windows of each classroom based on what subject they were proficient in or famous for.
“I think that raising awareness is the biggest goal of our club because I believe that this subject was not necessarily brought into the light at my school previously,” she says.
Ubalijoro played lacrosse for two years. This year she got a job and switched to being team manager.
She’s a member of the National Honor Society, the National Spanish Honor Society and the Art Honor Society.
Linda Bernfeld Rodriguez