Mark Isero is an old-timer at buildOn. He was the sole advisor for the Leadership High School group in San Francisco for 10 years; his colleague Amanda Sharp joined the team in 2010. He ventured to Mali for buildOn Treks in 2006 and 2008 and has helped dozens of youth to reach their goals. buildOn Program Coordinator Laura McKinney was a student in one of Isero’s English classes ten years ago; he encouraged her and her friends to start the school’s first buildOn group.
What do you teach? English for 9th grade.
How did you become affiliated with buildOn?
buildOn was starting up at [my] school and there were definitely some students who were interested. They needed to have an advisor, so they went to one of my colleagues and she got involved. It was a really committed group of students who wanted to do it… When my colleague went to a new school, I took it from there and I’ve been advisor ever since.
What do you bring to buildOn?
I bring a strong and a long commitment… The students [need to] know they can count on you – especially in urban schools where students face a challenge of instability. My commitment means that there’s going to be a story, there’s going to be flow. They know that if they make a commitment someone else will make a commitment with them.
How has buildOn changed your life?
It’s really two things. It’s made me even more committed to social justice through education. I know exactly why I’m a teacher and buildOn accentuates that. And the other thing is it’s made me even more simply purposeful. What I mean by that is knowing who I am as a person and as a teacher, and knowing that — being in two villages — what’s important and what’s not. How can I create change and positivity in the world by doing service here and doing the Trek for Knowledge…things become very clear about what’s important and what’s not.
What are some of your favorite memories working with buildOn?
The first really successful ongoing fundraiser (to build a school internationally): It was a pizza sale. I remember it was just so great to see the students really taking that on, and that became an institution at our school.
Another great memory was waking up in Mali and getting out of my hut and then turning around and seeing a full beautiful rainbow across the sky, over the beautiful trees. I took a picture of that in the early morning.
In your own words, what does buildOn mean to you?
I think it means young people coming together to put positivity and generosity into the world to promote education and social justice.