A Killeen Independent School District teacher is one of five across the nation chosen for a first-of-its-kind UNICEF trip to Tanzania.
Julie Vangroll, a fifth-grade teacher at Mountain View Elementary School, won one of five grand prizes, a seven-day trip to the African country to see the global organization’s work in schools and villages.
Weeks after learning she won the contest, Vangroll said she was still pinching herself, amazed and elated that she’s going overseas as an educator-observer.
Her husband, Alan Vangroll, is a teacher at Shoemaker High School. Their youngest daughter, Holly Vangroll, is a Peace Corps volunteer in Zambia on a 27-month assignment to start a fish-farming operation in a remote village.
Last summer, as Vangroll pondered her daughter’s stories about children hauling water to drink from contaminated sources, she recognized she wanted to get her fifth-graders involved in a global effort.
That desire led her to Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF, a longtime program with a new contest for educators. She put together an application, including a school project showing children helping children.
During the week of Halloween, Vangroll’s fifth-graders asked for donations. Some took boxes on trick-or-treating rounds to collect funds. The effort resulted in $521 for a water-well project in Africa.
Students promoted the fundraiser with posters and announcements, including an in-house school TV interview with the principal.
They also helped their teacher with a video to show their efforts.
As a UNICEF winner, Vangroll received $1,000 to be used for another school effort to address global issues like poverty, disease and hunger.
Her students are all in.
“It’s been a great success,” said fifth-grader Mikayla Mackall of the initial fund-raising project. “We got to help kids. I was really happy we could do something for others.”
They formed a club and named it Helping Other People Everywhere, or HOPE.
“I used to think people everywhere lived the same as we do,” said fifth-grader Lily Coryell. “I want to help people.”
The fifth-graders started their efforts in a pen-pal partnership through a school in the area of Zambia where their teacher’s daughter works.
Fifth-grader Morgan Bell teared up as she explained that her class watched a video showing the conditions of children living in dire poverty in many parts of the world.
“I never thought about it being so different in Africa,” she said, explaining the desperate hazards of foul water, lack of nutritious food and education inequalities.
Listening to her students reflect on their newfound knowledge and applied compassion, Vangroll smiled.
Her students are working on global-issues projects, researching poverty, hunger, child labor, preventable illness and other issues.
They will likely present their findings in May.
Vangroll said she is drawn to going overseas “to see it firsthand and bring it back to students — our students need to be global citizens.”