In Their Shoes: Closing the Black Educational Travel Gap One Student at a Time

Five Howard University students share their experiences participating in the first Alternative Spring Break project in Ghana

By Krystal Jacobs

Junior, Human Development Major

“True teaching is not the accumulation of knowledge; it is an awakening of knowledge.”

This African proverb adequately describes my state of mind in Ghana. My educational journey at Howard University felt affirmed in Ghana. This was my second time back to the continent, and similar to the first, I felt a sense of purpose.

Dr. Booker Ammah welcomed us into her Ghanaian family by allowing us to touch the hearts of children she has impacted so greatly. Experiencing firsthand the culture and thirst for education in the Ghanaian children was inspiring. In the U.S., libraries and schools are looked at as basic resources.

For others, they are a privilege not everyone receives. My studies could not prepare me for some of the realities children face in the midst of educational disparities. I am now determined to teach abroad after graduating Howard and continue to fight illiteracy in Africa.

By Beverly Booker Ammah

Ph.D. Faculty Adviser for Alternative Spring Break

Ghana Being a product of an HBCU (Hampton University), I was thrilled to gain support and encouragement from the School of Education and Alternative Spring Break Howard to initiate the ASB Ghana program at Howard University this year. I had facilitated ASB Ghana for the past five years at my former institution. The ASB Howard Ghana motto is “Give. Gain. Grow.”

The ASB Howard Ghana 2017 student team gave me a deepened sense of humbleness and gratefulness to take HBCU students to Ghana to do service-learning workshops at schools from a Pan-African framework.

We provided 600 books to school communities, a non-governmental organization called MMOFRA, and to the University of Ghana. The exuberant reactions from the ASB Howard Ghana spring students solidified my desire and dream to take students abroad to develop leadership skills and civic engagement as a permanent commitment.

By James June

Sophomore, Art Major

ASB Ghana was truly a life-defining experience that has made my time at Howard all the more fruitful.

One of the schools we served was in the mountain town of Aburi. The school had few teachers but many family members volunteering to operate the school. I was honored to have played a role in the community—even just for a little while.

I know now that my role as a servant leader has value both in my neighborhood as well as across the diaspora. Additionally, when visiting the University of Ghana, our group had the opportunity to bridge the gap between continental Africans and diasporan Africans through conversation with students; we were able to fellowship, debate and even party together. This was experiencing Pan-Africanism in real time.

Overall, going to Ghana felt like home, and I’m blessed to have had the experience.

By Denys Symonette

(B.A. ’11; M.S.W. ’13), Howard University School of Law

Throughout my seven years of study at Howard University, I have chosen to serve ardently through the Alternative Spring Break service-learning engagement programs. For six years, I committed to service and advocacy at the highest level, having truly internalized the University’s motto, Veritas et Utilitas, extending even beyond the pearly gates of the Mecca.

The most recent Alternative Spring Break sailed me back to the Motherland—the Gold Coast of Ghana. The global perspective that emerged with exploring this nation was the genesis of love. Its majesty enlivened the poetic words of the luminary W.E.B. Du Bois: “Freedom and vast salvation.”

The existential discovery afforded by the international experience further shaped my path as an advocate-scholar and burgeoning international human rights attorney, bringing to light a greater sense of diasporic-cultural awareness and enriching levels of consciousness. Delving into comparative legal studies while serving abroad provided me the chance to add voice to the conversation and convert insight to infl uence in a way that is virtually undiscoverable through any other means.

By Kayla Gardner

(B.A. ’10; J.D. ’17)

During my visit to Ghana, I had the pleasure of working with Dr. Raymond Atuguba at the University of Ghana School of Law. Dr. Atuguba provided a lecture on comparative law between the United States and Ghana. As a student volunteer, I conducted research to support Dr. Atuguba’s participation on an anti-corruption panel titled, “The Accra Dialogue.”

The panel discussion was held at the Ghana Institute of Law and Public Affairs and featured prominent policy experts, a political scientist and a minister of parliament. The panel featured a discussion of what strategies may be implemented to reduce public corruption in Ghana.

The most favored recommendation was the appointment of a special independent prosecutor to try cases of public corruption. But Dr. Atuguba’s approach was more proactive in that he favors strategies to prevent corruption in addition to addressing current issues.

He discussed the influence of transnational corporations, tax evasion by transnational corporations and traced illicit financial flows. Dr. Atuguba reasons that more regulation on these influences could greatly reduce political corruption.

Alternative Spring Break 2017

This year, the Alternative Spring Break program, which is committed to serving communities in need and involving students in meaningful service, sent more than 500 students to the following community service projects:

  • Accra, Ghana (civic engagement and leadership development)
  • Port-au-Prince; Croix des Bouquets, Ouest; and Cap Haïtien, Nord, Haiti (construction and infrastructure development)
  • Baltimore, Maryland (gang violence)
  • Chicago, Illinois (gun violence)
  • Detroit, Michigan (literacy intervention and mentorship)
  • Dilley, Texas (immigration)
  • Flint, Michigan (interfaith collaboration on social and environmental justice)
  • Lumberton, North Carolina (crisis cleanup and cultural exploration)
  • Memphis, Tennessee (poverty)
  • Newark, New Jersey (high school retention)
  • New Orleans, Louisiana (education and prison industrial complex)
  • St. Louis, Missouri (social justice)
  • Washington, D.C. (homelessness and HIV)

More than $120,000 was raised through WHUR 96.3’s Helping Hands initiative to support students in completing their service projects.

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