After transferring to the Hill, junior Kalil intent on influencing urban education
Kareem Kalil ’13 dedicates time on the Hill as a guard for the basketball team.
- Student practices what she preaches
- Trail-blazing senior has a passion for film
- Senior double major enjoys adventure on and off the Hill
Kareem Kalil ’13, a southern Massachusetts native, transferred to the College from the University of Maryland after his freshman year—and he wasted no time immersing himself in the close-knit community that attracted him to the Hill. Kalil knew he wanted to major in economics, and then he set to work crafting a second, independent major: urban education.
His interest in this area of study began after leaving Maryland. Instead of transferring immediately, Kalil took a year off to work in Boston for a project called City Year, a program that provides teaching assistance in low-income communities. “You work with a teacher instead of as a teacher,” Kalil said. “And even though I was able to help [the children] a lot, now they’re back in the system without help. And they deserve better than that.”
This past summer, Kalil extended his compassion for the less fortunate across the United States by way of a cross-country bike tour. The tour, a non-profit organization called Bike and Build, organizes young people into cross-country cycling groups that stop to work on low-income housing projects along the way. The program required Kalil and his 32 comrades to raise $4,000 each in order to take the trip from Virginia Beach to Cannon Beach, Ore. People were eager to donate after learning that the money would be distributed to various organizations during their journey. “I mostly got money from my friends back home, and I got a special projects grant from Colby for $500,” Kalil said.
The bikers experienced a very different lifestyle while they were traveling, sleeping on church floors and often eating food provided by these parishes. When a church was too small to feed their large group, they would appeal to local restaurants. “We’d tell them that we were working with Habitat for Humanity…and the people there would ask how they could help. And we’d say, ‘Well, we need to eat.’” Kalil was incredibly touched by the kindness they encountered along the way, which echoed the generosity of their own mission. When they finally reached Cannon Beach, Kalil felt inspired to get a tattoo of Haystack Rock, a famous landmark right off of the shore. “It signifies the end of a journey” and the close friendships he developed in the process, Kalil said.
On the Hill, Kalil has also taken on a lot of responsibilities. As a guard for the basketball team, Kalil swears he was born with a ball in his hand. He also founded a new group on campus called Students for Education Reform. “We try to get people talking about and acting on the educational injustices in our country,” Kalil explained.
With all of Kalil’s experience and interest in education, it’s no surprise that he intends to apply to Teach for America or Teaching Fellows—a similar, smaller program—after he graduates. “I think education is the most important thing. It basically determines your future because of where you were born, and some people are getting a [bad] one because of where they were born.” In the future, Kalil hopes to be the principal and basketball coach of an inner-city school.
For now, Kalil’s just happy making the most out of his own education. His number one priority before graduating is to continue building the sense of community that drew him here. “I’d really like to connect with every different type of person on this campus, not just the people on my team or in my classes.”