Voices from the Movement: Mykel Sisk from San Francisco

In our “Voices from the Movement” series you will hear stories directly from buildOn students, teachers, community members and supporters about why service matters and how it inspires change. Mykel joined buildOn to stay out of trouble and off the streets of San Francisco, but a school building trip to Burkina Faso with buildOn opened her life to global service.


Last summer I was fortunate enough to be chosen to go to Burkina Faso, West Africa, to help build a school with buildOn. Burkina Faso is one of the world’s poorest countries, but the people are so kind and giving.

The host mother I lived with immediately accepted me. One day she said, “Take me with you to America so I can take care of you.” That truly touched and inspired me. I saw that she loved me even though we didn’t share the same culture. Being in Burkina Faso allowed me to explore all parts of myself and take a look at all my insecurities. For the first time in my life, I felt like I belonged somewhere despite the cultural differences.

One of the major turning points in my life occurred during this school building trip. After working on school construction all morning, I sat down to read. When I looked up I noticed that my entire host family had surrounded me, eager to see the book I was reading. I started to read out loud and they repeated each word after me with so much concentration. In that moment I realized that maybe books were as precious as diamonds.

I joined buildOn to keep me from hanging out on the streets and getting into trouble in my neighborhood in San Francisco. Now I choose to volunteer as a way to express my passions and make a difference in the world. Service with buildOn has helped me to access the leader inside of me and to give her a voice.

Through buildOn, I’ve learned about myself and learned to realize that I enjoy helping people across the globe, not just in my own city. It has helped me to become more confident in my ability to make a difference in someone’s life and be of service to the global community. Every time I do service, and I meet a person going through a struggle, I form a connection with the person and feel more compassion for them.

My buildOn experience inspired me to start a campaign called “The Drop Off: School Supplies for Africa” to ensure everyone has the proper tools to access an education. My goal is to raise $100,000 and collect donated books and school supplies to be shipped to Africa by this fall.

Today, I am a leader and a catalyst for change in the world. I am a person who speaks out for what she believes in, who motivates people to help others, and pushes people to do what makes them happy. buildOn inspired me to travel and give myself to global service. This fall I will be going to Ghana for six months to teach English in a primary school. My goal is to make sure that every child around the world has an education and that all adults are able to sign their own name with pride.

– Mykel Sisk – Graduating Senior – International Studies Academy, San Francisco, CA

Pictured: (Left) Mykel and another buildOn student making bricks on the school building site in Burkina Faso. (Right) Mykel talks with community members from the village where she built a school last summer.

mykel-work   mykel-village

Watch Mykel and the other buildOn students from her school building trek bid farewell to their host village: