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Anonymous donor funds trip to Africa

By Jasmine Morton
On March 26, 2014


An anonymous donor will provide funding for 16 University of Memphis students to participate in the African and African American Institute study abroad program in Ghana this summer. 

Along with the University students who are chosen to go to Ghana, six faculty members will go: Dennis Laumann, Beverly Bond, Beverly Cross, Ladrica Menson-Furr, Brian Wright and Earnestine Jenkins. There is also a group of six high school teachers from the Memphis City School System who are going. 

According to the study abroad website, this program is inspired by the Ethiopian proverb, "Those who learn must teach." The 16 students who are chosen will come back to Memphis and teach a group of high school students about the things they learned while in Ghana.

 The donor's goal was for the university students to be able to "pay it forward." 

 "I like that this program engages University faculty, university students, high school teachers and high school students learning and sharing together," Beverly Cross, Moss Chair of Excellence in Urban Education, said. "It takes the University beyond the campus." 

It is usually hard to get enough students to apply for this program due to the costs and the fact that most of them are trying to work during the summer. Beverly Bond, associate professor of History, said that, within the decade that this program has been at U of M, normally about 10 students apply. The most students who have participated were probably about 13. 

"Thanks to this generous donation, finance is not much of an issue for students who want to travel to Ghana and learn," Dennis Laumann, associate professor of African History and the director of the program, said. 

He said that it has been exciting developing this program without worrying about how students are going to pay for it. 

The grant came about through a connection that Cross had who wanted to meet with someone from the African and African American studies department. The donor met with Bond and decided to fund the trips to Ghana as well as the two-week institute for the high school students. 

Brian Wright, assistant professor of Early Childhood Education, said the program is a wonderful opportunity for university students to take what they have learned so far and apply it internationally. 

"The privilege to be selected to participate in a study abroad program will enrich and expand their knowledge," he said.

The students have not been selected but they will go through an interview process soon. 

Johnny Hayes, senior African and African American studies and philosophy major, said recently participated in the Afro-Cuban History and Culture spring break program. He said it was great to experience another culture. 

"I really appreciate the donor, because I would not be able to finance this whole program otherwise," Hayes said. 

LaTerryan James, senior English and African and African American Studies major, said being chosen to be a part of this institute would be an experience of a lifetime.

 "It would be a great opportunity to help the youth and expand their perceptions of the world outside of Memphis," he said. 

James is also looking forward to experiencing Ghana because his sister recently studied abroad in Africa. She is a student at Trinity College in Hartford, Conn., and she visited Cape Town, Zimbabwe and Johannesburg. While she was there, she scattered some of their step-father's ashes on Clifton Beach. 

"I feel like part of my heart is in Africa now," James said. 

Laumann said this trip would be the highlight of a student's education. Ghana has strong connections with American history going back to the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade.

"One of the things that we will do in Ghana is visit the grave of W.E.B Dubois who lived the last years of his life in Ghana," he said. 

Laumann is excited that the university students will share their experience with local high school students.

 "Hopefully that will enrich the learning of high school students and inspire them to study abroad when they go to college," he said. 

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