Maximizing Potential and Paying it Forward

Gregory Barber Jr. knows his purpose in life is to be a healer. Growing up in the College Park area of Atlanta, Georgia, he often watched people either give up their lives to the streets or never reach their full potential.

“Through my mother, an educator, and my father, a janitor, I was instilled with the belief that I can maximize my full potential through a life dedicated to the service of others,” said the 20-year-old Morehouse College junior, who is double majoring in psychology and African American studies and is this year’s recipient of the Robert Kantor Scholarship.

“Studying abroad allows you to be more transparent, more accepting and more understanding of different people, different environments and different cultures,” said Gregory. “I cannot even articulate how thankful I am for the opportunity.”

Currently studying with SIT Study Abroad, Gregory is in Uganda and Rwanda working on an Independent Study Project that examines the impact of the Rwandan genocide on orphaned children and evaluates the different mechanisms used to help them cope with trauma. He wants to apply these best practices when he returns home to help children who have lost a parent either through death, divorce, incarceration, or violence.

Gregory is grateful for the generous support of the donors, a 1997 SIT Study Abroad Brazil participant and his wife, who established the Robert Kantor Scholarship to honor a family member.

Gregory’s first-ever trip overseas also honors another family member. His mother passed away on June 22, 2012 after a 16-year struggle with systemic lupus erythematosus. Gregory was just one month shy of his seventeenth birthday and senior year of high school. Her death created a financial strain that almost derailed his plans to go to college and study abroad. The Bonner Scholars Program at Morehouse College and SIT’s Robert Kantor Scholarship put him back on track for both.

Upon completing his undergraduate degree at Morehouse College, Gregory plans to attain a doctorate in developmental psychology and wants to focus his research on maladaptive development processes, particularly in children affected by traumatic events.

In the meantime, he is adjusting nicely to his new home in Africa, and describes it as beautiful, warm and hospitable. He is enjoying living with his host family and being fully immersed in a new culture.

“Studying abroad allows you to be more transparent, more accepting and more understanding of different people, different environments and different cultures,” said Gregory. “I cannot even articulate how thankful I am for the opportunity.”

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