Twenty Someone: Jovan Julien

Hometown: East Orange, New Jersey

College: Brown University

Age: 23

Occupation: Teacher /Photo Voice Workshop Facilitator

1. Describe your job in three words: Making Dreams Reality

2. You went to Brown. What was life like at an Ivy? I’m not sure if Brown is representative of your typical Ivy. Attending Brown was absolutely amazing. Not only was I constantly surrounded by some of the brightest of our generation, but Brown found a way to challenge and shape my sense of self. And do you think Ivy League’s breed elitism? Well yes and no. The structure of our society is echoed in nearly every facet of its own institutions. America in the end does have an elite class. Membership in that elite class can be gained in a number of ways, one of which definitively is education. So yeah many of America’s elite are drawn from our top institutions, there’s a reason we place such import on college rankings like those of Princeton Review and US News and World Report, and the IVY league schools fairly or unfairly fall within that select group of top institutions.

3. If I said Hi my name is Robin, I went to Devry. What would your initial reaction be? My initial reaction is probably hey Robin has a great smile, and then I would start to wonder what you studied at Devry. If I said Hi my name is Robin, I went to Harvard. What would your initial reaction be? Ugh HARVARD I hope Robin isn’t super uptight. I would also probably assume you’re ridiculously smart and probably were the valedictorian of your high school.

4. Okay last school related question. If you could design and teach your own class what would it be and why? If I could design any class it would be an anthropological review of current human society with a focus on how science has created such drastic disparities in living conditions. I’ve always been amazed by how easy it is when you focus on the day-to-day trials and tribulations of your own life, to forget about the plights of billions around the world. If there’s any one thing I would ever hope to teach people its that we are all connected and thus responsible for our fellow man.

5. Do you think a pictures can say 1,000 words? 

I’d say pictures can say a million words. A picture like “Afghan Girl” defined a whole countries perspective on the conflict in Afghanistan in the 80s. I remember taking an Environmental Science Class in 9th grade and coming across a picture of a child struggling from Kwashiorkor. The caption was simply “Haitian child suffering from Kwashiorkor”. The picture came up in the population dynamics section of the textbook. I don’t remember almost anything I learned in that class but that image spoke volumes. The message of Haiti that that image has shared with so many people inspires and informs much of my work.

http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2002/04/afghan-girl/index-text

6. You’re leaving for Haiti next week. Tell me more.  I am. I’ll be working with a couple of organizations running photo workshops for children. My first foray running workshops in Haiti occurred last year and since that it’s become a life passion. The image I referenced in the previous question did two things. With all the privilege that society has given me I hope that my work in some small way can alleviate the suffering of Haitian people. While the nations suffering is definitely a part of the story, I also hope to offer a contrasting view of the popular perception of Haitians and Haiti. When I’m in Haiti, I see a beautiful passionate people who play for keeps regardless of the crappy hand life has played them. Tell me even more: I’ll initially be working in Leogane with a wonderful organization called GOALS Haiti. At some point you should interview Kona Shen for this site. She’s a close friend, who after graduating Brown, moved to Leogane, Haiti (the epicenter of the massive earthquake) to start an organization focused on helping some of the towns most marginalized children. Check them out at goalshaiti.org and consider donating to the workshop fund at http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/110097?a=626632 . For the second half of my stay in Haiti I’ll be working with another organization called http://www.projectistwa.org/ . There also an awesome organization running photo workshops for Haitian children. We’ll be traveling all over the country, partnering up with different organizations. I’m super excited about getting to share my passion for photography with these children, and more importantly giving them a medium and voice with which they can advocate for their own place in Humanity.

7. What makes you cynical? As an educator what has made me the most cynical is the amount of children who have had their innocence torn away by older children, adults, or life. While I get that people can’t remain innocent forever, I find it an absolute travesty how many children, both here and abroad, have to grow up before they are ready to.

8.You would never be friends with someone who… I won’t be friends with people who think only of themselves. I definitely have me-first friends, that is I have friends who will first ensure their safety and comfort before looking to help others, but if a person never considers how they might be able to help those around them I generally don’t bother getting to know them.

9. If you wrote a thank you letter today who would you write it to? I’d write a thank you letter to my grandmother. She raised me, in fact my first language was Creole even though I was born and raised in East Orange, New Jersey. She instilled in me all the best parts of who I am- humility, compassion, courage, love. It’s become a cliché now for people to say they don’t know where they’d be without some aspect of their life, but I truly cannot even conceive of myself as a person without her being an integral part of my upbringing.

10. In ten years you will be…In ten years I’ll be 33. According to my life plan I need to be married and my last child will be one years old. I’ll either be living full time in the developing world, or finding a way to spend at least half of my time there. I’ll have found my better half, and be growing and evolving with them each and everyday. Most importantly I’ll be happy with the choices I’ve made and the people I’ve influenced.

Want to know more about Jovan? http://jovanjulien.com/

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