As poverty-fighting fellows, students learn to deliver Results

Growing up in Chicago’s South Side, TruLe’sia Newberry was no stranger to the realities of poverty.

Newberry’s mother didn’t want her going to neighborhood schools because they didn’t provide a quality education and she even had to do homework at a godparent’s house because it was unsafe for her to stay at home alone while her single mother was away at work.

“Living in poverty created in me a feeling of ‘I have to make it out,’” said Newberry, 20, an international relations and political science major.

By focusing on school and getting good grades, Newberry made it out of Chicago and moved Arkansas before coming to South Florida to attend FIU.

Now she’s looking to make sure other children don’t have to face the same challenges by taking part in a yearlong fellowship with the grassroots, non-profit group Results – the latest example of how students are putting the Global Learning-focused education offered at FIU to good use.

“A lack of education is how poverty sustains itself,” Newberry said. “I strived to have a good education and succeeded and now I want to be an advocate for others. I want kids and young adults to have more opportunities.”

Five other FIU students signed on to the Results fellowship in order to meet with and influence local, state and federal decision makers to support initiatives that fight poverty nationally and globally.

For Vanessa Moreno Betancourt, a senior majoring in Environmental Science, the fellowship is personal too.

“I was raised in Colombia and I saw how a lack of educational opportunities and health services creates disadvantages,” Moreno Betancourt said. “It inspired me to become a Results fellow to help developing countries create sustainable systems that help their citizens lead better lives.”

During a recent week-long conference in Washington, D.C., Results trained these FIU students on how to lobby government leaders to support legislation that can help end poverty.

“It was amazing to actually be there and to meet with congressmen and women and their staffs,” said Jessica Rameau, a senior and economics major. “Sometimes when you watch the news you feel like you don’t’ have a say in what goes on, but they showed us you can make a difference.”

What was truly eye-opening for Rameau and the other FIU students was the warm welcome they received from elected leaders in DC. Still, these students know it won’t be easy getting congress to act.

“Sometimes you have to call several times to set up a meeting or send out letters,” said Evelyn Diaz, an English and psychology major. “Sometimes the easiest way to get in contact is through social media. At the conference they shared a story of someone trying to get in touch with their congressman but when they posted a comment to twitter, they got a response right away.”

The first task for the Results fellows from FIU will be to meet with congressmen and women from South Florida and the states two senators during the August recess to ensure they support legislation to end preventable child deaths by supporting programs that help stamp out tuberculosis around the world, for example.

Eliminating these illnesses, they argue, means people will be less likely to miss work and slide further into poverty. In addition, students also said it was cheaper to fund preventive medicine efforts than to treat the illness if it were to spread to the U.S.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it can cost $17,000 to $430,000 to treat tuberculosis, depending on whether the strain is resistant to the drugs used to treat the illness.

But they won’t be the only ones working to support this legislation.

“What’s great about Results is that its not just us in Florida,” said Oscar Ospina, a junior majoring in international business. “It’s a whole team, a whole army advocating with congressmen all over the country.”

To learn more about the efforts of Results in South Florida or to get involved, click here.

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