Aggie Teacher Gives of Herself to the Children of South Africa

Written by: CEHD Communications Staff
Post date: April 09, 2010

"To whom much is given, much is required." And no one lives by these words more than former elementary education major Cassie Grant '03, who wanted to take what she'd been given in life and give back to her students - both in Texas and in South Africa. A reading specialist at Thurgood Marshall Elementary School in the Richardson Independent School District, Cassie has always had a passion for teaching. But after a summer experience at Camp of the Hills during her sophomore year at Texas A&M University, Cassie knew she wanted to spend her life reaching out to kids who weren't always given a chance to succeed. "I feel so privileged in my life and realize that the reason I was born into the family I was born into, that I live where I live and that I have the resources I have is so I can give back to those who aren't so privileged," Cassie says. "I took a different look at my life and wanted to think more about other people and what I can dofor them."

Cassie got the opportunity she had been looking for after visiting with Euan Blackman, a fellow teacher at Richardson ISD. Euan was originally from South Africa and had spent the summer of 2007 teaching children at the Makaphutu Children's Village in Valley of 1,000 Hills, South Africa. Through Teachers Making a Difference, Cassie joined Euan and four other teachers the following summer and spent six weeks at the same children's village and the Inkazimulo Primary School, rotating between first through fourth grades, mentoring South African teachers, and providing the care and attention that the South African children needed. She even helped begin a Homework Club that is still in place today. "When I started teaching, I realized my passion for helping children reached beyond the four walls of my classroom. I wanted to spend my summers helping children in other countries who were in need," Cassie says. "When I went to Africa, I saw just how similar the children were to my kids at home - they all want to be loved and made to feel special. And that is exactly what they all are - special. I feel privileged to be in a position to do just that and have been so blessed because of it."

Cassie says that the teachers and students at the Children's Village accepted her and the other American teachers as family, so it was tough on everyone, especially the children, when Cassie left to return to Texas. Only, Cassie made a promise to her kids that she would return again. "As I was saying my good-byes and leaving that first summer, one of my little boys seemed upset. When I asked him why, he told me that people always say they want to come back, but they never do," Cassie says. "From that moment, I knew I was going to make every effort to go back to see him. I spent the next year thinking about his words and knew I didn't want to be just another person who disappointed these kids or didn't fulfill a promise." After a year of fundraising, Cassie returned in 2009 to the same village in South Africa. "I went to see that same little boy the moment I arrived. When he saw me, he stopped dead in his tracks and just stared," she says. "He ran to me and hugged me, and that was one of the most life-changing moments of my life. Hopefully, he will never forget that I thought he was special enough to make a trip across the world to see him."

Although Cassie cannot make the trip again this summer, she knows that she will see the children of South Africa again. And she has plans to continue her world travels and influence even more children in different places across the globe. "This whole experience has definitely made me a better teacher. I've realized that my passion is in building relationships with kids, and I would love to have a classroom where I can connect my kids in Texas to my kids in Africa," Cassie says. "I want my students to experience life outside their school and their neighborhood and to start thinking globally." And, if Cassie has her way, she will truly have a global impact on the life of each child that is fortunate enough to connect with her.