The Westtown School is located in West Chester, PA and has had a long standing relationship with the Heritage Academy in Ghana through math teacher, Kwesi Koomson.
The story of Westtown and the Heritage academy began several years ago and has helped be transformed by the Westtown community. This is a story about a rural village in Ghana which has become a wellspring of inspiration for the Westtown community – teachers, students, parents and alumni from ’03 to 1983 – though it’s hard to say which community has benefited more: Breman Esiam or WesttownSchool. They share teachers, they share principles which we know as Quaker testimonies, and above all, they share students.
This is an amazing story that keeps growing – it is already international – and a story that is built on the interwoven connections that we all recognize as the Westtown network.
Kwesi Koomson teaches math at Westtown, chairs the Math Department, coaches soccer and is the dorm head on Boys’ Second; he’s been here for 11 years. Three years ago, he took a leave of absence to return to his nativeGhana with the goal of starting a school for about 30 students in the village where he grew up. Students in rural areas are underserved by the Ghanaian school system; few continue their education at university; many drop out after middle school because they don’t have the money or they don’t pass the national exams.
Since then –
- Not one, but two schools have opened – a total of 750 students;
- For the past three years, seniors have spent their senior projects in Ghana;
- A Westtown ninth grader spent three weeks of summer vacation teaching at the school;
- A Westtown alumnus – one of Kwesi’s former students – spent a college year teaching in the school, building classrooms and attending the University of Ghana;
- Westtown third graders’ book drive has built the school library, with surplus going to neighboring schools;
- Westtown sixth graders have a pen-pal project going and Middle School bake sales have helped in funding;
- Westtown faculty travel to Ghana to work at the school during the summer;
- A Westtown teacher has helped to found the Ghanaian Scholarship Fund; through the fund, she and her family are sponsoring the first Heritage Academy student to attend Westtown;
- The Class of 1983 has designated its 25th reunion gift for the Ghanaian Scholarship Fund.
Heritage Academy, the original school founded by Kwesi and his wife Melissa, began with 32 seventh grade students, housed in a church. In summer 2005, they bought a disused factory building, created classrooms from the cafeteria, warehouse and parking garage, and moved the school to this new site. There are currently 450 students in grades PreK through 9th grade – Junior Secondary. The plans are to expand to include Senior Secondary – high school.
“The Westtown community has been amazing in its support,” she adds. “Every aspect of Westtown is connected.” A non-profit foundation is in the works to provide a means of expanded and more permanent support for the schools, separate from the Ghanaian Scholarship Fund.
A sister school to Westtown in many senses, Heritage Academy and its students provide not only inspiration to the Westtown community, but also the opportunity to make a visible, tangible difference in others’ lives, and to make a connection across countries, cultures, and languages that enriches all.
For previous reflections of Westtown students’ experiences visit the Westtown Senior Project Blog.