Who are we?
Aphelion: n. the point in the orbit of a planet, asteroid, or comet at which it is furthest from the sun.
During the 2014-2015 school year, the middle school girls at E.A.Young Academy in North Texas internalized this concept as they looked for ways to reach out and support fellow girls around the world, no matter how far away. These students adopted the name and formed the group, Aphelion, to improve educational opportunities for youth both locally and globally.
On January 7th, 2016, Aphelion gathered in the crowded cafeteria of E.A.Young Academy to present the program they call SOAR! for an audience of parents, school faculty and special guests. The event was cultivated and created out of an understanding that there are 60 million girls throughout the world who are unable to obtain the education they need. As Dr.Tracey Pyles, President of the Maasai Girls Education Fund (MGEF) stated, “They thought of it. They created it. They designed it, wrote it, enacted it, choreographed it, danced it, sang it, and poured their generous hearts and souls into it."
For several months, members of Aphelion dedicated their talents, passion and spare time to creating something truly special that would inspire others to join their cause. For months, the classroom was filled with beads and spare pieces of metal, pens and paintbrushes, and the excited chatter of students exchanging ideas. As the event drew near, there were times when students felt overwhelmed by the multiple details that still needed to be ironed out. However, in the end, the students pulled through and managed to make their dreams a reality.
On the night of SOAR!, ten different performances captivated and moved the audience. The attendees also participated in a silent auction, purchased handmade jewelry, and sampled ethnic foods representing countries without educational equality.
A student at E.A. Young Academy wrote and directed a play that told the true story of a young girl from Kenya who defied her father’s wishes and escaped from her native land to pursue her education. That girl, Simantoi, is now a nurse, living back in Kenya and taking care of her family and community. Other students wrote spoken word poetry, created artwork, and performed a song written by Dr. Pyles’ own mother, Barbra Lee Shaw, who founded the Maasai Girls’ Education Fund. The artwork and performances were all made to inspire and bring awareness to the struggles of girls who deserve the right to be educated.
One of the driving forces of the event was the partnership Aphelion had recently forged with MGEF. This organization’s goal is to improve the literacy, health, and economic well-being of Maasai women in Kenya. Their families are also benefitted by MGEF, as their daughters can provide for them once their education is complete. The union between Aphelion and MGEF has allowed four girls in the Maasai tribe to receive the funds necessary for a full year of education; Aphelion’s story continued to inspire countless others as well.
At the end of the event , SOAR! had raised just over 2000 dollars, enough to send two Maasai girls to school. More importantly, this event had inspired and empowered people to reach out and change lives on the other side of the world. One student summed it up by saying “I never knew that I could help raise enough money to provide an education to a girl in a third world country (much less inspire several others to do so as well) with my words and brushstrokes and choreography... I am extremely lucky to have such hardworking classmates who also share a passion for helping others and who will do whatever it takes to share that information and raise awareness for today’s problems.”
Dr. Tracey Pyles, who frequently travels to Kenya to care for the women of the Maasai, made a special trip to Texas to be a part of this event and was moved to reflect on her experience… “These remarkable students embody an ideal we should all aspire to and strive to help them sustain. For as the last line of the final performance of the night powerfully reminded us, they are the future.”
- Quincy H., 2016-2017 Aphelion Parliamentarian