As one of those fortunate people influenced by a great role model, Andre Luis Peres studied French in school in Campinas, Brazil, then joined his mentor teaching that language in an impoverished neighborhood of that sprawling metropolis.
Peres has been volunteering at the nonprofit Casa da Dinda ever since, over the years helping hundreds of youngsters and adults improve their language and social skills. He's also helping launch a satellite branch of Casa da Dinda to teach computer literacy to some of those same individuals.
Not bad for someone still a student himself: Peres launched his volunteer teaching career at age 14. Seven years after beginning his volunteer ways, the busy young man is nearing graduation himself, as a senior in business administration at Paulista University, and simultaneously serving as an IBM Global Business Services intern in quality assurance.
At an age when many youngsters are notoriously self-absorbed, Peres says he was introduced to a different path, and found he had teachable skills that could be a powerful tool for social inclusion. As an adult, he's still sharing his love of language while exploring ways to help low-income youngsters and adults discover they too can be part of modern Brazilian society. Casa da Dinda is a school that stresses citizenship, education and culture, built around the importance of learning a second language along with computer literacy to prepare for a promising career.
Peres teaches French, and sometimes English, at the school about 20 minutes from IBM campus. He’s also working to help the school open a satellite campus for computer instruction in downtown Campinas, a diverse city of about 1 ½ million people.
"I am trying to make differences in the lives of these people, by offering them what the school calls ’social inclusion through a second language.' They lack access to money, access to computers, access to knowledge of a life outside what they now have," Peres says. "I teach them, but I receive much more in return, as I see their fascination with the discovery of something new. And they learn to be a citizen of Brazil, aware of their responsibilities."
"Every day that I go to Casa da Dinda, I am growing up as a person. I've learned that when we have a certain skill, we should think, 'What can I do to help other people gain this same skill? What can I do to help people realize their own dreams?' I've found that by trying to help people feel happy, I am happy too."