Global Citizen Year Profile: Going to Malawi Taught buildOn Student to Be Herself

This week we’re profiling two exceptional buildOn Philadelphia members who were accepted by the highly competitive gap year program Global Citizen Year. Read about Kimberly Reed today and Madelaine Guss, a recent graduate at Lower Merion High School, tomorrow.

Kimberly Reed loves buildOn. This recent graduate of Philadelphia’s Delaware Valley Charter High School is such a devoted fan of buildOn, her Facebook name is Kimberly buildOn Reed Hyman.

“I’m pretty sure she went to every single buildOn project she could possibly go to,” said Lisa Archibald, Reed’s SAT prep teacher and buildOn adviser. Reed completed over 400 hours of service during her four years at buildOn; and through our afterschool program, she built a school in Malawi, was awarded the region’s Global Impact Award for being a super-engaged member, and was recently accepted into Global Citizen Year, where she’ll be doing service in Ecuador before starting college. However, the one thing Reed credits buildOn the most for is bringing her out of her shell.

buildOn’s Pennsylvania Regional Manager, Joanna Branch, said Reed was in tears during her Global Impact acceptance speech, when she told the story about her transformation. She was shy and had trouble fitting during high school, but she changed when she went to Malawi her sophomore year. She met a supportive group a people who inspired her to never let anyone feel left out of a buildOn project. It was the people in Malawi who taught her to be herself.

“Every morning they would say ‘hi’ and ask you what you were doing, and try to get to know you. They were getting me to do things that I didn’t normally do, like dancing,” she said. “I made sure that when I came to Philly I would carry that with me at every service project, and be silly and have fun.”

Reed brought that spirit of authenticity to her volunteer work at Eleanor C Emlen Elementary School, where she helped second and third graders work on their reading skills once a week. She would made it fun by sharing secret handshakes with her students and taking breaks by playing tic-tac-toe or looking up words in the dictionary.

Reed is the heart of buildOn Philadelphia because she is genuinely kind and open with people. Archibald said that while she is timid in class, she is very popular in her buildOn group. “buildOn was really her place for flourishing. She has such a magnetic personality,” she said. “When she got elected as buildOn president, she really internalized that as her mission to go out and get new members.”