My HOME Stars Founder, Wins the 2020 Peter Bosscher Undergraduate Award

Congratulations to our team leader, Joel Baraka, for being among the 11 students and faculty members to receive the 2020 Wisconsin Without Boarders Distinguished Award at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

As the program was established to celebrate students and staff doing impactful community-engaged work within Wisconsin and across the world, Joel was recognized with the Peter Bosscher Undergraduate Award that honors the work of Dr. Peter Bosscher whose work and ethic of social responsibility is at the core of Wisconsin Without Boarders. He was passionate about providing service-learning opportunities to undergraduates and having students reflect on the global impact of their work, which is a real reflection of My HOME Stars’ mission.

Having grown up in Kyangwali refugee camp in Western Uganda and currently a rising senior at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Joel holds a strong belief that every kid can “reach for the stars” and realize their full potential provided they are given the right support. Understanding that young students love to play and have fun, Joel and his team at My HOME Stars are exploring ways to use educational games to transform learning. Inspired by the idea that educational curricula could be broken down into small, summarized packages that permit students to learn academic content in a competitive and fun way, the team has been working on the 5 STA-Z: a fun and engaging academic game based on the Ugandan primary educational curriculum. The game summarizes the four core subjects – Integrated Science, Social studies, Mathematics and English – taught at the Ugandan primary level. In addition to making a more conducive environment for teaching, the 5 STA-Z seeks to enable students to develop and strengthen their social and critical thinking skills, problem-solving, and teamwork skills.

Today, the game has been used by more than 500 students within the four primary schools in Kyangwali Refugee Camp. With help from CIYOTA, a non-profit organization that has been leading a number of educational programs for refugees in Kyangwali, My HOME Stars is working to make the 5 STA-Z available to 1,500 students by the end of this year. Still, they are working to partner with more organizations in Uganda and help more students stay on top of their academic content during this unprecedented time as they wait to go back to school.

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