GALLIPOLIS — A local graduate of River Valley High School has been hard at work abroad.
Kayla Johnson has led a life not typical of many Gallia County residents, she has helped start a not-for-profit school in Peru, earned several Bachelor’s degrees, a Master’s and Doctorate in international education, taught students in France, and has now been accepted to a post-doctorate teaching position at McGill University in Montreal, Canada. Both her and her fiance Joseph Levitan will begin teaching there in the fall.
The school is located in the Peruvian Andes on the Machu Picchu Trail.
“The school is culturally grounded and culturally sustained, which means it is operated by locals and educates locals towards their own ends,” Johnson said.
The school has been officially operating since the fall of 2016 and will begin a new school year in March. The idea for the school came from Levitan’s friend who led tours at Machu Picchu, and had a friend that could not attend school because of the distance.
This need led to Levitan coming to Peru to help educate the more rural people, who speak the language of quechua. This presented another problem, as all of the education is primarily taught in Spanish.
The newly founded organization has three partners; Johnson, Levitan, and a Peruvian native Beto Loayza. Loayza’s family is historically from the area of Peru where the school is located, and is dedicated to finding local teachers and managing the school. Johnson and Levitan help coordinate volunteers and students studying abroad.
“In college I studied abroad, teaching in France. It was the first time I ever flew, and it was such an experience that it changed my whole career,” Johnson explained.
This cultivated a passion for international education, and equipping peoples from other cultures to succeed.
“I found a lot of students in other parts of the world that are very hungry to learn. If I could encourage others to do something, it would be for them to find the hunger to learn more” said Johnson.
The organization is a 501(c)(3) charity, and is funded entirely from donations. While the budget is only $7,000, there is still difficulty in meeting that goal. Donations can be made at sacredvalleyproject.org, with a memo for CEPA and Kayla Johnson in the donation.
To learn more about the Sacred Valley Project, visit cepaeducation.wordpress.com.
Reach Morgan McKinniss at 740-446-2342 or firstname.lastname@example.org