John Barton is a second-year in the College majoring in Latin American Studies and Global Development Studies with a minor in Urban and Environmental Planning in the A-School. He is the Resident Advisor (RA) of Casa Bolivar this year and a member of the National Residence Hall Honorary at UVA. John volunteers with the Latino and Migrant Aid program through Madison House, where he teaches ESL in Spanish. On Grounds, John also is involved in Sustained Dialogue, Chi Alpha Christian Fellowship, and the Cavalier Daily Spanish translation section.
How did you first get involved?
I have been involved with service projects since middle school, starting with my youth group in Richmond, Va. In high school, I found my passion for Spanish and started focusing my volunteer efforts toward Hispanic communities in the U.S. and in Latin America. I helped start a Hispanic church in Richmond and a tutoring program in a low-income, predominantly Hispanic apartment complex in Richmond. I gained experience serving on projects overseas in Argentina and Peru, and I was also an interpreter on these trips. These experiences and commitments were extremely important to me in high school, and I knew coming to UVA that I wanted to find opportunities to serve in Charlottesville. I found Latino and Migrant Aid my first year and quickly became friends with the man I teach. I have been enthusiastically committed to the program ever since, and I plan to continue throughout the rest of my time at UVA. I chose to be an RA because I genuinely care about other people, and I wanted to fulfill a leadership position in this community for which I deeply care. The Spanish House RA position seemed like a great fit for me, and I am very grateful for the wonderful year that we have had!
What has been most rewarding?
The most rewarding aspect has been the friendship that has formed between myself and the man I teach. We have met up several times in Charlottesville outside of our tutoring lessons, and we stay in contact through WhatsApp year-round. He has told me that our classes have made a difference in his life, and knowing that I have been able to make a positive impact on his life is extremely rewarding.
How do you expect to be involved in the community in the future? What's your #CommunityCommitment?
I plan to continue to serve the Latino community in Charlottesville during the rest of my time at UVA. Although my time in Charlottesville is relatively brief, the impact that can be made through service is long-lasting. I will also be an RA again next year, this time for first-year students, helping them with their transition to UVA. My commitment to the UVA and Charlottesville communities is to use my privilege for good by serving others. I hope that through my service, all may benefit, just as I benefit from the service of my peers. To me, that is student self-governance: students serving other students so that everyone may have the best experience possible at UVA. I want to serve my University and the city of Charlottesville so that others may benefit, and I believe that these are the positions in which I am best equipped to serve.
How would you encourage others to get involved?
There is no shortage of opportunities to get involved and to serve others. The question is not if you have the chance to do so; the question is in which context you will choose. Choose something that you enjoy, and find a way to serve others by doing that. I love languages, and I love speaking Spanish, so being able to teach my mother tongue in Spanish is enjoyable for me, and it benefits the man that I am serving. Find that sweet spot, whatever it is for you; something you enjoy that can also benefit others.
What has been the greatest class you have taken at UVA?
It's hard to choose! My mind has been greatly sharpened by courses in art history, sociology, urban planning, English, Spanish, Portuguese, and Latin American studies. However, if I had to pick one, my Global Epistemologies and Research Methodologies class with David Edmunds truly changed my worldview and helped me to understand both the nature of global development and what development really means. I see the world differently now, and, as a result, I feel better-equipped to pursue justice worldwide.
What is your favorite UVA tradition?
I welcome any chance to sing the Good Ol' Song! Joining arms and singing our appreciation for our University is such a unique, unifying, and special experience to share with my fellow 'Hoos. It feels like taking a moment as a community to appreciate where we are, to be glad for the opportunities that it presents us, and to feel pride in being a part of this institution. Any time that I am in a large gathering at UVA, I am secretly hoping that we will sing it by the end!
If you could do one thing to make the world a better place, what would it be?
I would provide everyone will a quality education. The world is full of great minds, minds that I believe are powerful enough to solve the world's problems. However, so many people are not reaching their full potential because they do not have access to a quality education. This withholds great ideas from being developed, and, therefore, great solutions from being found. It is an issue that I am passionate about, and I suspect that working in education overseas will be my first step towards a future career in development.