Christina Ong

UC Irvine student from Sacramento wins Microsoft award

Published: Sunday, Jul. 7, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 3B
Last Modified: Monday, Jul. 8, 2013 - 9:17 am

Sacramentan Christina Ong, a senior political science major at the University of California, Irvine, has been campaigning the past year to establish a peace-building curriculum at the school.

For the past three years, she has been working at Kenya Dream, which raises money to build schools in Kenya.

Ong was recently named a winner of Microsoft's YouthSpark Challenge for Change. Along with a variety of Microsoft products, Ong won a three-week volunteer trip to Kenya and $2,500 to fund her peace-building curriculum project.

How did you hear about the contest?

I heard about it when I was on Facebook. I was studying for finals. I saw it when I was taking a break and I though I might as well just apply and see what happens.

What was the project you proposed?

There are two parts of it. One part, the main focal point that I talked about in my application, is I am working with faculty at UC Irvine and we are coming up with seminars like peace education seminars, for intra- and interpersonal peace. We're looking at taking conflict and analyzing it in a way that's beneficial to all parties. We're starting out with that this coming fall.

The second part for me has been working with Kenya Dream and we fundraise money to build and fix educational facilities in Kenya. I think it would be beneficial to know the daily life of a child in Kenya and how their education can be improved by the things that we do.

What happens now?

The main thing for me right now is just evaluating the kinds of needs that the kids have in Kenya. I think if I research more on that I can find more connections between both projects that I'm working on. It's kind of difficult for me to bridge the gap between the two but I'm seeing education reform from two different levels.

What's next?

The four other winners and I will go on a service trip to Kenya for 20 days to work with the communities to help build schools and learn about the ways that local people earn money and the opportunities they have. We're going to learn a lot about the culture there and how education has improved their lives.

Why is peace education necessary?

I think it's so important just because even at the college level where I live and the people I interact with, they don't know how to properly dispel some of the anger they have sometimes. I found that our school system hasn't taught us how to handle conflict. There's still that animosity that we hold on to and there needs to be a better way to release it. It's something that everyone needs to learn. People overlook it because it's not tangible, but the effects are always going to be there so I think it's just important to develop.

What is your ultimate goal for this project?

The ultimate goal is having peace education everywhere in the world. It's a really far-off goal but I think it's possible. It would be difficult but I think if you teach small things here and there it will make a lasting impact.

Call The Bee's Brittany Torrez, (916) 321-1103.

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