2/15/2014 2:21:00 PM American Heritage Academy senior travels to India to complete homework assignment
Cottonwood American Heritage Academy senior Kaitlyn Witt’s Senior Community Outreach Project took her to India to deliver foot pedal sewing machines for widows going to school at the Lighthouse Sewing School. Courtesy photo
All high school seniors at American Heritage Academy (AHA), in Cottonwood, are required to complete a "Senior Community Outreach Project" as part of their High School graduation requirements. For one senior, Kaitlyn Witt, this assignment took her on a journey to India, which not only changed her life, but also changed the lives of 30 widows and 20 young girls living in the improvised villages in India.
Kaitlyn's senior project was two fold. First, she wanted to raise money to buy foot pedal sewing machines for widows going to school at the Lighthouse Sewing School in India. Kaitlyn says that due to lack of education and job opportunities, the widows had no way of supporting their families, but a $100 sewing machines would enable the students to start micro sewing businesses which would help the families avoid the grim reality of life on the streets and possible starvation.
"India has always intrigued me. When my dad, David Witt, who is the CEO of The Spirit of Martyrdom, which is a nonprofit Christian international relief organization, told me about an 18 year old girl, who is the same age as me, was an orphan, with little education, living in a small village and had no way of supporting her little brother and herself, I knew my AHA Senior Project could help her. The sewing machine we were able to give her really meant the difference between life or death for her and her brother. It also changed the lives of 29 other widows." Kaitlyn said.
The second part of Kaitlyn's project was to create and host a four-day, all-expense paid, "Girls of Faith Dance Camp" for young girls living in extreme poverty. According to Kaitlyn, many woman and girls in India have low self worth because of their culture. The four day camp was designed to enhance their self esteem through basic lyrical dance classes which incorporate ballet techniques to the words of a song, games, Bible stories, and a dance performance.
To make her project a reality, Kaitlyn started a Colors of India website hosted at www.gofundme.com, approached family, friends, students, and members of her church. Through their support, she was able to raise approximately $6,000 which, funded both projects. On November 16, 2013, she boarded a plane and set off on an 11-day journey to complete her assignment.
"There is so much hurt and sadness in the U.S. and India. No one on their own can change the world, but if you take the time to help one other person, you can change their world, and it is worth it," Kaitlyn said.
Kaitlyn says she always thought the required AHA Senior Project was a cool idea. She also mentions that it is a way to express yourself, and use everything you have learned and apply it to help the community. She thinks American Heritage Academy's graduation requirement to create a project that gives back to the community should apply to all Arizona Seniors because the benefits of the experience would benefit the rest of their lives.
Kaitlin's next big project is college. Thanks to American Heritages Academy's "Free Early College" program, she will begin her higher education journey with more than the first semester done of her freshman year in college done. Kaitlyn plans to obtain a double major in International Studies and Performing Arts and Dance. Many of the seniors at American Heritage Academy are taking advantage of the school's early college program. These college classes also count toward their high school credit. For more information on AHA early college programs, or senior projects, please call 928-634-2144.
American Heritage Academy has two campuses. The Cottonwood campus is located at 2030 E. Cherry Street and serves Kindergarten through 12th grade. The second campus is located at 132 General Crook Trail in Camp Verde and serves Kindergarten through 8th grade. To learn more about AHA's unique programs, visit www.americanheritageacademy.org or call (928) 634-2144.