Building the blocks for learning, little by little

It’s not every day that a UVM student decides to rebuild part of a country.Emma Vick, a sophomore at UVM, said she was “playing hookie” when she first decided she was going to dedicate herself to help build schools in Southern Sudan.Vick said that since then she has put in countless hours, raised thousands of dollars and received recognition from cover girl Natalie Portman for her dedication to this cause.The double major sophomore holds executive positions in both the STAND (Students Taking Action Now: Darfur) and NESEI (New Sudan Education Initiative) clubs on cam?pus, Vick said.For those who are unfamiliar with NESEI, it is a “rapidly growing non-profit NGO” and SGA recognized club, dedicated to “rebuilding southern Sudan though education,” said Vick.The organization is trying to bring attention to and fix educational injustices in Southern Sudan, as less than 1 percent of Sudanese girls finish secondary school, according to their Web site www.NESEI.org.Vick said UVM anthropology professor Robert Gordon helped her get involved when she and UVM sophomore Sasha Fisher applied to be interns for NESEI over this past summer.Vick said they spent the summer “working over 50 hours a week, conceptualizing, planning and implementing the Future Beyond Genocide Tour.”The tour sends speakers around to high schools, churches and college campuses all across the country, and Vick was responsible for the south which was probably close to 50 stops, said Fisher.”The interns had intensive and obsessive input into the planning of the tour, but Vick had a stress-free personality even when she has a lot on her plate,” Fisher said.As interns, the two sophomores lived and worked together in what Vick called the NESEI house.When school started up again, Vick joined and became vice president of the NESEI club. “She was really helpful in connecting NESEI and STAND,” Fisher said. “Both [groups] are working to improve similar regions.”Gordon, who has been involved with the Sudanese Diaspora since the beginning of NESEI, describes Vick as “a silent doer” and that she and Fisher “took the opportunity to shape their own lives.”One day in October, Vick said she was reading “guilty pleasure” Teen Vogue Magazine when she came across an essay contest with a five thousand dollar cash prize for a charity of choice.Cover Girl Natalie Portman chose Vick’s essay about NESEI as the winner and said that “Emma’s particular focus on women’s education really spoke to me.”The $5,000 was put towards NESEI’s goal to build 20 schools in Southern Sudan by the year 2015, said Vick.Vick, Fisher and the NESEI club are now organizing Fisher’s idea to have a Sudan Week on April 6 at UVM, Fisher said. Vick has events planned for every single day, ranging from video chats with Sudanese students, to speakers and t-shirt designing.It will end with a Friday night march from the Davis Center to the ECHO center where there will be a benefit party for ticket holders.”The tickets will be five dollars, and will be on sale within a week,” Vick said. Vick said she will be traveling to Sudan with Fisher on May 10 to see what progress has been made in the schools NESEI is building.With the support of many people, Vick has helped give a priceless gift to Sudanese children: education.