From July through December 2011, this is where I'll be. Here are the tales of my adventures!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Exponential Education

I decided to do an Independent Study/Internship as the Director of a program called “Exponential Education” for the fall semester in Ghana.  It’s a program that hires Senior High School students to tutor Junior High School students in math and English.  We pay them a weekly stipend and at the end of the program, we award one of them with a scholarship to be used for their higher education.

Every week consisted of anywhere from 30 to 90 minutes traveling by tro-tro to our teaching venue depending on traffic.  From there, we got to the hellish intersection that is Riss Junction.  It’s essentially a 4-way stop with no stop signs, lights, or direction so it’s constantly jammed.

It all started back in Santa Barbara where Helen Gradstein, the founder of the program, actually contacted the students who would be studying abroad in Ghana to see if anyone was interested in taking it on.  As someone interested in the field of Educational Administration, this seemed like a perfect opportunity for me so I enthusiastically signed up.

We met up and she explained how the program worked and handed over all of the necessary documents.  I was extremely excited and couldn’t wait to get things going once I was over here.  During orientation, all of the anticipation was exponentially (for lack of a better term) growing.  I wanted the semester to begin so I could start this program!  Unfortunately, that’s not exactly how things turned out…

Heidi, my partner in crime and Co-Director for the Ghana Fall 2011 Chapter, and I quickly discovered that accomplishing tasks took much longer than expected in most situations.  Plus, we were going on very little direction as to how to actually complete said tasks.

We waited weeks before actually meeting Professor Kate, the Ghana Program Monitor, because she was out of the country and I can’t even begin to explain all of the miscommunication we all had with one another.  Eventually, after traveling around the areas of Accra, Adenta, Agbogba, and Ashongman, and meeting with different school headmistresses, we felt like we had gotten the ball rolling.

We met for the first time with the tutors and students in October and initially had 2 tutors and about 15 students.  It was both exciting and terrifying!  I had never done anything like this!  As time went on, Heidi and I got the hang of things and I really think we made an impact on these kids’ lives.

By the end of the program, we had about 35 total students and 4 tutors.  The students’ math and English skills had greatly improved and we had really developed our own community away from the University.  It was such a rewarding experience and has helped further underline my passion for the field of education and working in administrative positions.

Our last week consisted of a special graduation ceremony and awarding scholarships to the tutors.  We ended up dividing the total scholarship money and allocating different amounts to each tutor based on his/her performance.

We said our goodbyes to the students, tutors, and Professor Kate and left Agbogba for the last time.  I tried uploading a copy of my final project for this internship for anyone interested in learning more about the program, but blogger isn't very functional apparently.  It’s a compilation of what we did this semester and also a guide for running future programs in Ghana so if there is anyone who wants to check it out, just let me know and I'll send you a copy!

Monday, December 5, 2011

End of Semester Concerts!

It’s been quite a while since my last post so a lot has happened.  It’s finals season and everyone is basically cramming, shutting themselves away to “study,” procrastinating, traveling, or sleeping non-stop.  Since I’ve finished five of my six final exams/practicals/projects and don’t have the last one until December 14th, I’ve been using this time for travel!  More updates on that venture to come later!

For this entry, I just wanted to focus on my Pop Band Final Concert and Acapella since they consumed a lot of my time during those last few weeks of classes.  I joined an Acapella group started by two of my friends, Carlin and Maggie (Carlin is the Asian guy below on the left, Maggie is the blonde in the group photo).  We learned a couple songs, performed for the University Chorale and then began recruiting more members.

At the end of Homecoming week, for the closing event, we performed “I’ll Be There,” “New Soul,” “Auld Lang Syne,” and the crowd favorite, “The Lion Sleeps Tonight.”  It was so much fun to be in an acapella group since that’s something I’ve always wanted to do, but never got the chance to actually take part in.  In the end, I met some cool folks and really appreciated the opportunity to be singing again.
A week or so before that concert, was my final concert with the International Pop Band, “Obrobini.”  It was a really bittersweet moment because it was the last time we’d all be performing together.

The show had a lot of individual solos from the Level 100 students who were also being graded.  There were a couple other bands performing too.  Jonathan and Bobby performed a traditional Ghanaian piece for their final.

Being a part of this band was an interesting experience.  It was a challenge to be a part of a group that had such different directional style than anything I’d ever experienced, not to mention I’ve basically always had sheet music to work with rather than complete improv the entire time.  Still, it really helped me musically and I appreciate all that I learned from this group.  I won’t miss having 10pm-midnight rehearsal, but I will miss the amazing and talented friends I made and having my UC friends come out to support me every week!  OBROBINI!