We work at the grassroots level throughout the Muslim World to counter violent extremism before it takes hold, to promote tolerance and understanding, and to foster better relations with the United States.
Summer Service Intern Joe Sgroi will be volunteering at two summer camps in Morocco! Here are his pre-departure thoughts on serving in the past and being accepted for our summer service program!
The original post was written by Joe.
I was born in Lima, Peru. At 15 months old, I was adopted into a Sicilian-American family in Ewing, New Jersey. Along with a group of other adoptees and their adoptive parents at the age of 14, I visited numerous orphanages, villages, and historical sites throughout Peru. The raw poverty and humility of the people of my native country led to my goal of becoming a diplomat in the future.
Fast forwarding to the beginning of spring semester 2014 at The College of New Jersey, I remember seeing new posters around our Humanities and Social Sciences building. These posters advertised summer internship opportunities in the Muslim World through America’s Unofficial Ambassadors. I remember passing these posters dozens of times for weeks, with little to no contemplation, partly because I knew no Arabic, but mainly because internships are hard to come by for even the most qualified students. However, the posters were soon joined by emails about the internships from the TCNJ History Department, which I had changed majors from months earlier. These persistent reminders eventually led me to do some research on the America’s Unofficial Ambassadors website, and also attend the interest session on campus. Still skeptical about my chances, considering the national pool of great student applicants, I began my application.
Fast forward even more, to the day I got accepted into the AUA program in Morocco. I was beyond ecstatic when I read the email regarding my acceptance and assignment. Not only was I going to be spending time learning Arabic and learning about an entirely new culture, I would be interning at two different summer camps for children ages 6-10. This assignment at Al-Akhawayn University and Hay Atlas Summer Camps was my dream choice. In the past I have worked at two New Jersey summer camps with children ages 6-10 in both the city of Trenton and Ewing Township. My experience coaching three 5th and 6th grade boys basketball teams in Ewing, New Jersey, also prepared me for what I will be doing this summer at these two Moroccan summer camps, particularly in sports.
As a tri-athlete since the age of 4, through high school and college, I have learned countless lessons about teamwork and humility, as well as hardship, failure, and perseverance. Sports are some of the few things in this world that transcend race, religion, and other differences that hold us back as a society. I was fortunate enough to have been given the gift of sports and their lessons from a young age, which is something that is just as much a part of me as the blood that rushes through my veins. I am beyond humbled to have been chosen to give this gift to the children of Morocco, doing so while representing my college, town, state, birthplace, and the United States as a whole.