Empowered Girls, Stronger Communities.
In southern Ghana where we currently sponsor over 1200 students, village life is easier in those areas where the patriarchal power structure has negotiated a comfortable balance with the matrilineal family system that is in place. Consequently, these communities require educated, strong, and independent women in order to function properly.
Hence in addition to giving girls access to the full range of educational and athletic opportunities available to them, we have been very intentional about developing their capacity as leaders by giving them chance to lead. Each position in our student government is occupied by a boy and a girl; hence, the girls’ and boys’ senior prefects are co-chairs of the student council. In club leadership where anyone can run for any position, the adult advisors encourage and sometimes recruit girls for various roles because we strongly feel that a good leadership team must include both girls and boys.
By design, about half of the board members of the Schoerke Foundation as well as the faculty and staff of the Heritage schools are women. And so far, over sixty percent of our American grant recipients have been young women in the last two years of high school or the first two years of college. We are constantly working to nurture leadership, character, a strong voice, and excellence in all the young women who work with us both in the United States and in Ghana because we truly believe that “women hold up half the sky” (Kristoff & WuDunn).
Sunday, February 26: Yesterday I had a meeting I have known about, scheduled, and re-scheduled in my mind for almost eight years. I had imagined this day a hundred different ways but when it was finally here, I wasn’t ready… and didn’t quite know how to handle myself!
Back in 2004, soon after we started Heritage Academy in a little pink church in Breman Essiam, we all knew our first hurdle was to get our 32 seventh graders through the national exams in 9th grade. My favorite game in those days was to imagine graduation from Heritage for all 32 students (with outstanding national exam results of course!), and then graduation from various high schools (again with outstanding results), and then I would meet with the kids and their parents at various points to discuss the next steps–college, teacher training, nursing training, the police academy, the polytechnic, starting a small business etc.
Graduation in 2007 was a happy occasion. However, faced with the limitations of our resources, the Schoere Foundation was only able to provide five full scholarships for high school. The headmaster, DeGraft, worked with families to pull their resources together in order to gain admission to various schools for their wards… and help them get through school. In the end, 28 of our founding students went on to high school; and sadly the four left behind were all girls who now have children but no husbands.
Four years later in 2011, this first batch of Heritage students graduated from high school with excellent results. Emmanuel A. and Sarah N. went on directly to college in the United States last fall; but their classmates in Ghana had to wait a year for their national exam results before applying to college. Yesterday, I met with Emmanuel N. (Sarah’s cousin) and Padmore to talk about and help them start their college applications. I expect more meetings of its kind in the next two weeks. The reality is shaping up to be slightly different than imagined, but I had waited so long for yesterday… this morning I am not so sure if I imagined the whole thing just one more time.
As always, I am thankful to the Schoerke Foundation board, our friends, supporters and donors, and all the volunteers who have pushed us forward to this point. I hope you share my joy about the awesome possibilities ahead of our students…
November 29, 2011
The Schoerke Foundation
P.O. Box 214
Westtown, PA 19395
Dear Kwesi, Melissa, Roy, Laura, and the many other amazing people involved with the Schoerke Foundation,
I want to thank you all for giving me the incredible opportunity to travel to Ghana and learn so much about the world. The grant I received last summer gave me the experience of a lifetime. It was so inspiring it made me eager to tell people about my time and share the unbelievable, astounding, moving, and endless opportunities Heritage Academy and The Schoerke Foundation have to offer for everyone.
Last Monday, I gave a presentation to my Contemporary Issues class about Heritage Academy and how the work that is done there is changing the lives of people all over the world. I tried to show them why I believe Heritage is more than just a school in addition to how amazing the entire program is. At the end of my presentation, I told my classmates about the Powderpuff Football event I was helping to coordinate. This game’s proceeds would be donated to charity and fifty percent would go directly to the Schoerke Foundation. I emphasized that if just fifteen students showed up at the game, they would be giving a student a chance at an incredible education they wouldn’t otherwise have. I think that the message was heard because we were able to raise over one thousand dollars for charity last week.
When I tell people about my trip to Ghana, my goal is to inspire people to see the ripple effect of change that one incredible school is making, and the superb sense of hope and knowledge they are instilling in every student. I want people to see how Heritage is helping to shape an amazing future for these kids and making an everyday effort to stop the cycle of poverty in families.
I know the Schoerke Foundation motto, “Changing lives in Ghana and the US through education,” is true because I experienced the astronomical growth that Heritage has to offer for everyone, regardless of their age. I hope that the donation we are so happy to send today helps to change the lives of even more students everywhere in the future.
Thanks again for being my all-time favorite non-profit,
Anne-Claire and Friends at Daniel Hand High School
I teach English at Conestoga High School. I have been teaching for 16 years. In the summer of 2010, I had the pleasure of teaching at The Heritage Academy. While there, I taught creative writing and poetry. My main focus dealt with having the students perform the poetry as a way to experience the full meaning of words, and the imagery the poets intended. The students’ willingness to perform, and the pure passion and spirit with which they approached each poem, were awe-inspiring. Heritage is such a special place because the students, at all levels, are so willing and eager to learn. Beyond the wonderful students, I was inspired by the amazing commitment of the teachers and staff at Heritage, and the dedication of the Americans who were there to volunteer their time and talents. I was most surprised by the young people, American high school students, who were naturals when it came to the classroom. Their courage to travel, and their willingness to seek out such experiences is truly inspiring.
To those who are interested in exploring the possibility of teaching at Heritage, I must say that “if you believe it, you can achieve it.” When I first learned about Heritage, I was drawn to the wonderful things that are taking place there, but thought I would not be able to volunteer. I have two young sons at home, ages 4 and 6, so it did not seem like the opportune time to leave home for part of the summer. Yet, my wife and our families, were very supportive of my going away for this experience. If you have the desire, make it happen. You will not regret it. I hope to go back in the next few years. Until then, a piece of my heart will always be at Heritage
Michael Trainer, Poetry Teacher, Summer 2010.