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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Digital Youth Q&A: Nafiza

Learn about Nafiza's life in this in-depth interview.
By Ken Ellis

My name is Nafiza, and I live in New York. This year, in the Global Kids program, we are covering injustices in the educational system. We divided into three groups -- the United States, Brazil, and Tibet. Each group is going to focus on capturing a one-minute film on one child's struggle to attain a higher education.

See Nafiza's full portrait.

Edutopia.org: Tell us a little bit about yourself, starting with when you were born.

Nafiza: I was born in 1990, so I was born in the year of the horse in the Chinese calendar. I came to the United States when I was about 8 years old. I was born in Bangladesh. Since I came over here, I've lived in Astoria, which is very close to Manhattan.

Describe a typical day in your life.

On a typical day, I wake up and I turn on my computer. I check my email, I check the weather online, and then I go brush my teeth. I change for school. I have breakfast. I come back and check my email again, and then I head out. I go to school, and during lunch, my friends and I meet up and either go to the park and listen to music, listen to music on the playground, or head to the park and walk around.

When I get home from school, I will check my email again, and I spend some time going on to Teen Second Life or playing Dance Dance Revolution, Need for Speed, or some other kind of game. And then I most likely will come over to Global Kids. What we're doing right now is filming in Teen Second Life, so it's good to go on beforehand so I can set up for what we're going to be doing in the program.

After I get home from the program, then I have to do homework. I still check my email when I get home, and I have to check Facebook when I get home. And then there's text messaging somewhere in there, which just goes on constantly, checking my voicemail -- all of those things.

What digital-media tools do you use?

My cell phone is my alarm clock. And my ringtone on my alarm clock is a tone from this animated movie called Spirited Away, so it's really soothing to listen to when you wake up. My iPod is in my pocket while I walk to school. Of course, I can't use it in school, although people do use it in school.

My iPod is like my entire life, especially in the summer, and whenever it dies, it's like recharge, listen to it while it's charging, unplug, walk around, do something, listen to the iPod. I have to start relying on something that has better battery life.

I listen to a lot of Japanese music and Korean music. It's because I'm very into Japanese animation, and I also watch a lot of Japanese and Korean films, dramas, and psychological thrillers, so it makes sense for me to have a lot of Japanese and Korean music. But it's mostly either rock or techno.

I have a PlayStation 2, so I spend a lot of time on that. I spend a lot of time on Dance Dance Revolution, which is awesome. And my favorite games, as far as PlayStation 2 goes, is Need for Speed, and also Mortal Kombat. I also like old games such as King of Fighters, which kind of died out a while ago when it comes to popularity, but it's still fun. Racing games and fighting games are awesome.

Throughout most of the year, I had Facebook deactivated, but then I promised that I would reactivate it before the school year ended. I also have a MySpace page, which I've had for quite a long time, but I don't use it as much as Facebook.

I think you can use social networking to learn, especially because I think, in general, any kind of communication with other people helps you gain knowledge and even learn about different cultures. If you go on Facebook, there are a lot of cultural groups. So maybe there's a group where people from Japan will tell you about what's going on over there, and you can learn from them.

It's a good way to also keep track of what's going on around the world. For example, after what happened in China, there was a relief group created, so it's a great way to keep in touch not only with people you know from high school but also with people around the world.

Tell us about your involvement with Global Kids.

I think, when I first started with Global Kids, it was definitely a new environment. And when it comes to anyone starting in a new environment, they generally start out a little timid and shy. So, at first, I was a little more reserved and quiet, but I think because I was involved in so many different programs altogether, it helped me become a little more active with the program much faster than other people would have been.

I was doing the after-school program we have with Global Kids along with the Virtual Video Project last year, and the after-school program was very different from the Virtual Video Project. The after-school program is very hands-on interaction, whereas the Virtual Video Project was online-based interaction, because even though we were facing one another, we were really facing the laptops facing each other.

So, it was very much based on interaction through the computers. But we have a guideline that says "People before computers," or "PBC," which means that if someone else is speaking, you lower your laptop and listen to them first before you look at your laptop.

Still, it's very different from typical Global Kids programs, because it is very online focused. After I became active, I did various programs, such as the Council on Foreign Relations Summer Institute, which was an introduction to U.S. foreign policy. It was a great program, because you got to meet so many foreign-policy experts. It was great, because it was only three weeks, and you met so many people.

I am the only returning student from last year to come back to the Virtual Video Project this year. So, this year, I am helping a lot of the students, especially now that we're doing editing. I am helping a lot of them with little things such as how to turn the camera and how to edit. I have taken on more of a leadership role than I had last year, when I was also a student learning.

This year, we are covering injustices in the educational system, and that's going to be our movie's premise. We divided into three groups -- the United States, Brazil, and Tibet. Each group is going to focus on capturing a one-minute film on one child's struggle to attain a higher education.

At the end, we're going to put all the stories together, and it's going to be about the three students that were struggling to attain education all grown up now and speaking out at the United Nations and talking about their struggle. By sharing their stories in front of the United Nations, they're trying to promote change, and they're trying to promote equality in the educational system, especially in their countries.

What have you learned by doing this particular project?

I'm working on the Tibetan struggle. There are a lot of injustices in China going on with Tibet. I didn't know specific things. For instance, Tibetan students have to pay in order to get an education. Also, Tibetans aren't allowed to learn in their own language, nor are they allowed to learn about their own culture.

So, it is very unjust, and it seems like the Chinese government is trying to completely erase the Tibetan culture, which is terrible. Tibetans should be able to preserve their culture. I think by learning about it, they would be better able to preserve it.

Are there any parallels with other countries you know about?

There are so many. I can definitely say that when the British took over my country, Bangladesh, a lot of our culture was removed. Now, we use a lot of English words versus words in our own language. So a lot of the culture has been erased because of imperialism.

Ken Ellis is executive producer of Edutopia video.

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