FSD’s International Internship Programs attract an impressively diverse range of participants from around the globe, but undoubtedly the common thread among our Intern alumni is that once they start on the path to sustainable community development, they never stop. James Sarria is an alumnus of two FSD trips, and an exemplar of how our alumni continue to make a lasting difference in every community they touch.
James first volunteered with FSD in 2007 through UC Berkeley’s DeCal Global Service Trip to Nicaragua. He returned to Argentina as a co-organizer of the trip, facilitating the semester-long DeCal course on sustainable development issues in South America. Today James is the Stanford Site Director of the Summer Math and Science Honors (SMASH) Academy, a 3-year 5-week summer math and science enrichment program that is free of cost for high-achieving, first generation high school students of color. The SMASH Academy provides resources to help level the playing field so these students have the same opportunity to achieve success in higher education as their peers in non-marginalized communities.
Working with over 100 students throughout the SF Bay Area requires James to keep a global perspective in mind, and he credits FSD with helping him foster a cross-cultural understanding as well as a passion for service and volunteerism at a young age: “What FSD creates is an opportunity for passionate, ideal and young scholars to experience what can’t be replicated in a classroom. FSD supported my desire to connect with people that are just like me, but just happen to live in another part of the world.” James fondly remembers his Argentinean host family as his favorite part of his trip, and acknowledges that this “importance of local knowledge of the FSD trip mirrors the importance to have local people managing sustainable development projects."
James continues to travel and engage in the international community, recently returning from a month in Bangladesh where he lived with a local family and worked in Lawachara National Park on service trips including reforestation and eco-tourism. In his professional and personal life, James carries the lessons he learned on his FSD trips with him, remarking: “We are all living on the same planet, using her resources and ultimately decisions I make in the US have significant, direct and immediate impact on the lives of people that we may never meet”. FSD is thrilled that interns such as James continue to be the change they wish to see in the world long after they have returned from their internship abroad.