Introducing John Latona

Meet John!

Meet John!


Author and researcher Brené Brown once wrote, “We need to be the adults we want our children to be... We should model the kindness we want to see”. As an Art Educator and as a young adult, I believe this to be a simple yet profound statement and an inspiring way live life. This personal philosophy is one of the many propellers that lead me to join ‘Drama Based Education: Training Teachers in Rwanda 2016’.

This past Fall 2015 semester at SUNY Buffalo State College was my final semester as an undergraduate in the Art Education program. My final semester in the Art Education program was spent outside of Buffalo State Campus, at Herman Badillo Bilingual Academy and Frontier Central High School, student teaching. As a student teacher, I struggled to juggle full-time teaching and, at the same time, planning for the future. I narrowed my future options down to continuing my education or pursuing an art education career directly out of undergraduate studies. During my debates, I met Buffalo State Professor and the Anne Frank Project’s Founding Director, Andrew Kahn.

During our first meeting, Professor Kahn quickly displayed his passion, enthusiasm, and knowledge for Rwanda, his students, and his colleagues. These energies exhibited by Professor Kahn reminded me of Brown’s quote; modeling how I envision myself as an educator and adult. He made my decision to go to Rwanda and continue my graduate education at Buffalo State, very easy. Unfortunately, my experience preparing for Rwanda hasn’t been so effortless.

After I was accepted into the Rwanda program, preparations for the trip were due almost instantaneously, including airfare, vaccinations, and other expenses. As a student teacher I was encouraged not to hold a job during the semester’s duration and because of this, I had little funds available to fund my journey. This financial predicament fueled my creative reasoning as I looked and applied for funding and scholarships to help pay for Rwanda. Through this creativity and hard work I have received 3 scholarships, ‘Improve the World—SUNY/AFP Rwanda Travel Award’, ‘International Service-Learning Scholarship’, an emergency scholarship fund through Buffalo State Art Education Department, and lastly the Art Education Department also supplied me with additional funding. Only with these scholarships and funding, I am able to serve in this year’s Training Teachers in Rwanda 2016. But, after attaining these scholarships and funding opportunities, the remaining preparation quickly fell into place.

I am physically and whole-heartedly ready to travel to Rwanda. I haven’t begun my travels and I have already learned and experienced so much through Professor Kahn, Anne Frank Project’s co-director Eve Everette, and my other fellow Rwanda 2016 participants. These experiences prior to the trip have reignited my understanding that hard work and determination really do pay off. As I travel to and experience Rwanda I keep in mind what I have learned, what I want to know, and living in the moment. I will model the kindness I want to see in the world.

-John Latona