Many American University (AU) students gain almost as much experience and knowledge by seizing extracurricular opportunities available to them as they do from the courses they take.
Andrew Lalwani, a student studying film and media arts in the AU School of Communication, recently returned from a social impact trip in Costa Rica where he built a skate park for an underprivileged community, and documented the experience. The trip was developed and co-sponsored by Red Bull and We Journey.
SOC: How did you get involved with this project and what was the experience like?
Lalwani: I was very surprised to get chosen. I know over 50 students applied. [Red Bull Student Brand Manager and Communications Studies major] Kenna Sloan approached me and told me I should consider making a video. She said that I would have a great chance since I am so involved in the AU community and this would be a great opportunity to do social change work that is more than surface level.
The trip was refreshing. Sometimes I get overwhelmed, because I'm always doing so much and I can't always soak it in. This trip allowed me to step back and realize how lucky I am to go to school and be a part of something like this. Not everyone gets this opportunity.
SOC: Did you feel like you connected with the community in Costa Rica?
Lalwani: We researched the community and built a skate park. Not just for the sake of building a skate park but because the community really desired and needed that for their underprivileged youth.
There was a man [in the community] named Luzzo who was killed in a gang fight. We built the skate park to honor him and to give the kids in the community a space to call their own, where they can relax and feel comfortable.
Since we left, the community has been sending us lots of pictures and updates about how many kids have been there every day and how the skate park has made a positive impact. Before we were there, the space wasn't purposed, it was just a slab of concrete. So, we built the ramps and the local community got together with us to help.
It was great to actually engage with a community instead of just learning about it in school. I could understand where they are coming from and how a project like this affects them as opposed to just visiting a country, touring it and leaving. We got to leave something for the community and then explore the community even further.
SOC: How has this experience impacted the path of your career?
Lalwani: I make videos online and I work with brands and businesses to connect them and help promote them. I'm always a storyteller. I create content and show people how to get involved by sharing videos, being personable and getting out there and doing something as opposed to just sitting behind a keyboard.
We Journey partnered with Red Bull on this big social impact trip to help get a bigger audience reach, and this cause is able to be extended even more because of the Internet.
Watch the video of them building the skatepark here: