His goal was 1,000.
But over the course of roughly one month, SJC Long Island’s John Davis collected nearly 1,500 books to send to a K-12 school in Siem Reap, Cambodia.
“Last summer, I taught in Thailand and Cambodia while pursuing a TESOL certificate,” said Davis, a history major with a concentration in adolescence education, who served in the U.S. Army from 2009 to 2017. “I taught for a week to a third grade class in Cambodia. The school there had no real resources, but the students really wanted to learn.”
Inspired, Davis, 32, partnered with fellow members of the Student Veterans of America (SVA) chapter at SJC Long Island, putting together a book drive in order to supply the Cambodian children with a proper library.
“I held library readings in Cambodia, where I would read to the students,” said Davis, originally from Bettendorf, Iowa. “They only had a few books to choose from, and there would be three students trying to read a book at the same time. They also would argue about who could take home a book during the weekend. So I decided to supply them with a library.”
After the collection ended, SVA held a bake sale to raise funds to send the books to the school, raising a total of $340.
I feel like it is my calling to work for quality and relevant equal educational opportunities for all.” —John Davis
The books will also help the students, as the students are motivated to learn English because it is an economic booster, Davis said.
His Next Chapter
Davis, who is set to graduate in December, wants to continue teaching internationally before pursuing a master’s degree at either Harvard, Georgetown or Vanderbilt University.
After receiving a master’s degree, Davis plans on teaching in conflict zones or refugee camps in the Middle East — a decision that stems from his time serving in the Army.
“I spent 25 months in Afghanistan,” he said. “I was part of a team that helped build schools in Afghanistan, including schools for girls. I was in areas where girls were not allowed to go to school, which was disconcerting for me. Gender discrimination in education is very real in third-world countries, and witnessing it was a transformative experience.
“I feel like it is my calling to work for quality and relevant equal educational opportunities for all,” Davis continued. “Education can help prevent future conflicts, and education is often underserved where it is most needed and over-served where it is least needed.”