International outreach a new goal for Mason High School

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Story by Michelle Paetow
Video by Noriah Williams
Mason Times staff writers

Leadership B class at Mason High School taught by Kristin Higgins continues its organization, Students Empowering Nigerian Development (SEND), in efforts to raise awareness and support for educational opportunities for students in Nigeria.

In the fall of 2011, 30 students were the first to experience this class. This class is designed to apply leadership skills from the Leadership A class to a community service project. The students created SEND, an organization to support the goal of Paul Kato’s goal to building an academy in Nigeria to create educational opportunities for children.  Kato is a soccer coach and business teacher at Mason High School.

“I went to visit, I noticed some of the deficiencies they had there, education-wise, and I just had a passion for it. I thought I would establish a non-profit organization to work on that. I have been travelling back and forth to get things started,” Kato said.

Kato, originally from Nigeria, received an educational opportunity at a young age from his father and attended Spring Arbor University, in Spring Arbor, Michigan for soccer. He began his non-profit organization, Kato International Training Academy (KITA) in 2009. KITA uses soccer to promote education in Nigeria by creating soccer clubs. SEND is an outlet for students at Mason High School to become involved with KITA and its direct impact on building the academy in Nigeria in summer 2012.

“We have identified kids that are talented not only in soccer skills, but also education levels. It’s a leadership thing where we are trying to establish future leaders for the country. Thirty kids of around 13-years old will be attending the academy and next year we will bring in another school and keep adding until we have a complete high school,” Kato said.

While in the Leadership B class, students created merchandise including T-shirts for $12 and posters for $5 available for sale through their website. Students also planned a school lock-in during the second trimester that featured sporting events, performances  and Nigerian food tasting event. More than 200 Mason High School students attended and they raised more than $1,000.

“You see a lot of aid going to Africa, but you don’t see a direct result. There are students going this summer to help physically build the school. Seeing the outcome is really inspiring, and interacting with Mr. Kato every day and talking to him about the issues helps us see the result. He is sponsored by Trinity Church and Nike,” said Mackenzie Robson, junior at Mason High School and active member of SEND.

Three students from Mason High School have previously visited Nigeria, and this summer, seven are planning to attend

“This idea started with Mr. Kato. Last summer, I went to Nigeria with him and saw everything he was doing and it was inspirational. This summer, seven students are going to experience the culture and help build the school,” said Rachel Davis, junior at Mason High School and an active member of SEND.

The Leadership B class broke up into four different committees: merchandising, awareness, event and a committee dedicated to sending students to Nigeria. SEND’s message is: SEND Hope, Spark Change, and Solve Crisis. The poster was created by Robson.

“This is a connected art piece, the first piece represents a state of crisis and everything that is going on in the world that we don’t have control over. The middle piece is a change in the state of mind, so looking at the world as an unsolvable problem isn’t going to help but if you look at the things you can help such as world hunger you can make a difference,” Robson said.

“Living in a state of hope and showing that you can do something to change the world is the last piece. We decided to sell it to give proceeds to Mr. Kato.

The students in the first Leadership B class involved in SEND are hoping to get more students involved to make it an after school organization, rather than just a class, so the program can continue after they graduate.

“We had opportunities to lead what service we wanted to support and the administration wanted student leaders. This idea (SEND) came and we all jumped on board. It’s the first time we had a leadership B, class so we were able to build the curriculum,” Davis said. “We are hoping to bring in younger students, so they can take our place making it an extracurricular organization after we graduate.”

To date, KITA has raised $75,000 and SEND has raised more than $6,000 to go toward building the first academy. Kato said he is hoping for another $100,000 to expand to a second school  where international soccer tournaments can be held. A student through KITA has received a full-ride scholarship to Spring Arbor University to play soccer and receive a college education. Students this summer are visiting Nigeria with Kato to experience Nigerian culture and help build the school.

Mason High senior Emily Ingalls said,  “We may be getting some money to help us go to Nigeria, but I am planning on financing as much of it as possible myself. Last year, I was listening and I was so interested then, but it was too late to sign up,” said Mason High School senior Emily Ingalls. “This year, we are going for 12-14 days and I just feel this opportunity will be a life experience that will benefit me in the long-run.”

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