“I love teaching and passing on information to others. It’s the best way that I can help the world,” said Ben Salinas ‘18. This past summer, Salinas spent two months teaching kindergarteners, elementary and high school students at schools in Mombasa, Kenya.
Salinas, who is double majoring in anthropology and sociology, is part of numerous music groups and tutors international graduate students in English at the Computing and Communications Center.
As a high school student, Salinas went on a mission trip to Tanzania. After his sophomore year at Cornell, he reached out to the coordinator of the Tanzania mission trip, and she connected him with an opportunity to assist teachers in Kenya and a family to stay with in a suburb outside of Mombasa.
Every day Salinas would spend his mornings volunteering his time at a kindergarten, and then in the afternoon he went either to a elementary school or high school. At the kindergarten and elementary school, Salinas taught a music class to the children.
“Music was a way to bridge the language barriers between the students and me,” explained Salinas.
The children enjoyed learning the songs that he taught them, so much so that parents told Salinas they couldn’t get their kids to stop singing them.
When Salinas taught at high schools, he taught a class in life skills and focused on his passions, anthropology and sociology. He spent a lot of time discussing race with the students.
“There is still a colonial mindset in Kenya that ‘white is right’,” Salinas said. “The first time I walked into a classroom, they assumed I was smarter because my skin color was lighter.”
Salinas enjoyed spending time with the children and said they were very curious about his life in the U.S. and how it differs from theirs. He also got the chance to learn a little Swahili while in Kenya.
His experiences this summer solidified Salinas’ dream to teach after graduating.
Anna Carmichael is a communications assistant for A&S Communications.