RepDevGlobal is a new nonprofit that aims to demystify the field of international development for high school students through after-school programs. And the nation’s capital is a fitting setting to launch a local chapter.
The Thurgood Marshall Academy chapter of RepDevGlobal is the first among all D.C. public and public charter high schools. This is no coincidence. Kimaris Toogood, founder of RepDevGlobal and the club advisor at Thurgood Marshall Academy, explains. “For RepDevGlobal to have a chance, we needed to pilot it in a high performing school where the students are already on a college track.”
Kim brings nearly ten years of academic and field experience throughout the developing world. She’s been a Peacebuilding Advisor to the British Council’s Nigeria Stabilization and Reconciliation Programme, Conflict Prevention Officer for the U.S. Department of State, Conflict Prevention Specialist with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and an Analyst for the Department of Defense – to name just a few of many roles she’s taken around the world in countries such as Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Yemen. Kim is also a doctoral candidate at George Mason University’s School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution.
Once afternoon a week, student members of RepDevGlobal explore issues that practitioners in the field strive to address, including poverty, gender inequality, and violence. They are also exposed to academic and career options in international development once they go on to college. Kim is particularly interested in exposing students from minority and low-income backgrounds to this field since “minorities are an exceptionally underrepresented demographic in international development.”
Though Kim has been in the field of peacebuilding and international development since finishing her undergraduate education at Clemson University, this career wasn’t a forgone conclusion. “Growing up in Northern Virginia, I wasn’t conscious of international development as a career field,” says Kim. “High schools have so many priorities and understandably, global education just doesn’t fit into the schedule in many schools.” Though she recognizes that her education in international development and peacebuilding issues “has been tremendously rewarding, the building blocks for my passion in global affairs could have been fostered at an even earlier stage.”
There are many misconceptions about international development and peacebuilding, Kim admits. But one of the reasons she launched RepDevGlobal was to engage in a type of myth-busting about what it means to be a professional in this field. In her experience, Kim has observed that “many students, particularly from minority backgrounds, don’t consider international development as a valuable career field. They don’t know about all the different avenues that comprise this field. They don’t realize that they could be an engineer or a doctor but still be engaged in various elements of international development. I want to show students that development doesn’t necessarily have to have this hippy vibe to it and that it’s not just the Peace Corps.”
Kim has observed a range of interests in students who have attended RepDevGlobal meetings. “Some of the students I’ve talked to are thinking about a diplomatic track. Others, like senior Darnell Hudson, who is exploring the military as a career option, have come to RepDevGlobal meetings to get a greater sense of social justice issues around the world.” But Kim sees the benefits of program attendance regardless of a student’s career ambitions: “Awareness and empathy for global development challenges is everyone’s responsibility,” she says. Darnell agrees: “I read a lot of news, and I follow international news really closely because what’s going on internationally can affect our local community.”