Category Archives: Westtown School

Shoes and Wood Carvers

After our fifth day of teaching, it’s hard to believe we’re more than halfway through our trip. All of us seem to be finally settling into the routine of our school day. Our teaching has become more confident and our bond with the kids has grown immensely. As the trip’s end is in sight, we’re making more of an effort each day to savor every moment with our students.

Once the school day ended, we made our way back home to do some service. After dumping out several bags of mismatched shoes, it was our job to find its matching pair and tie the shoelaces together. About halfway through the process, we took a break and took a car ride to a local woodcarving shop. Lots of us were fascinated by the items and purchased a few of the premade sculptures. Some were bolder and brought their own drawings for the carvers to make them custom pieces. We quickly drove back home to complete the service project we started earlier in the afternoon. Once all the shoes were paired up, we stuffed them in bags in preparation for tomorrow when we will give them out to children at Heritage Academy. After a delicious meal and check-in, we all started to slowly wind down and reply to letters our students so graciously took the time to write to us.

Simon and Chris.

Advertisements

TUESDAY: The Long Bus Ride

Today Ali and I got the opportunity to take the bus to school with some of the students. The bus took us through three different towns where students all got on board. As we traveled from town to town, the bus slowly filled to the brim with students. There were kids squished to the sides of the bus, some were sitting two or three to one seat, and others stood in the aisles and pressed against the doors. Other than the cramped ride, it was interesting to seeing the different towns and schools that were in the area. We passed by a teaching university where students were all in their uniforms, getting ready for their day to begin.

After the bus ride, Ali and I came back to the house where we ate breakfast and finished getting ready before we were dropped back at school. When we got to school we taught our morning classes. Some of the students in the group got the opportunity to sit in on one of the high school classes, which was interesting. They were learning about the slave trade and the history of slavery.
After lunch, we took a trip to Heritage’s sister school, Ochiso, instead of teaching our afternoon classes. When we got there, we did a big introduction with all of the kids and we took lots of pictures. The children at this school were very excited to meet us and crowded around to learn our names and get our addresses. There were kids ranging from around 4 years old to 14 years.
When we got back to the house, we just hung out and slept. We also found out that one of the people in our group has malaria, but she went to the clinic and got some medicine. She is feeling a lot better now and she will be back teaching tomorrow. Today was a long day.

Lola and Ali

SUNDAY AT ELMINA

We woke up with an early start at 7:00 a.m. to get ready for a Sunday day out. The overall schedule today was that we went to the Slave Castle in Elmina, Coconut Groove Beach Resort, and shopping in Cape Coast. It sounded like a busy day, but overall it proved to be both very exciting and relaxing. We arrived at the Slave Castle after an hour long drive and as soon as we got out of our bus, merchants started to ask us our names and if we wanted to buy any of their merchandise. We made our way into the castle and began our tour. Inside the castle, there were many tourists which surprised us after hardly seeing any for the past week. The tour went through the different levels of the castle beginning in the women and men dungeons and cells and ending in the governor’s quarters. At the top of the castle, the view was spectacular. We were able to see the markets with interweaving streams of hundreds of people and fishing boats floating on the water. It was very interesting to learn some of Ghana’s history. After exploring the castle, we got into the bus and drove to coconut grove.
When we first arrived in the resort, the contrast to the world outside to the world inside was drastic. The resort was very wealthy and contained many tourists. We sat at the ocean front and had lunch. After we enjoyed our food, we sat on the beach, played volleyball, and swam in the pool. We had to leave sooner than we were expecting, and so after gathering our things, we got into the bus and drove to Cape Coast to buy gifts for our family and friends. The stores were rich in color, and there were many varieties of traditional Ghanaian crafts such as wood carvings, jewelry, and clothing. Everyone had a successful time with finding plenty of gifts to buy. After shopping, we got back into the bus and drove back home. We finished the day up with a nice groundnut soup and rice ball dinner. 
-Emma Merrick and Alice Macartney

A Saturday To Remember.

Today we had no classes to teach because it was Saturday. In the morning, there was a wedding for one of the teachers who work at Heritage Academy. The wedding started at ten in the morning with some singing by the choir. Then, the groom arrived, followed by the bride some time later. During the ceremony, there were prayers, singing, and a lot of dancing. For dancing, everyone would get up and walk around the room with music playing. The wedding was without doubt the highlight for the day.
We skipped the wedding reception, arrived back at the house at around 1 o’clock, and ate some lunch before venturing out to explore the nearby town. It was there that we met up with one of our students from Heritage, Lord. He was kind enough to show us around town and lead us on a tour of the beautiful University in town. After about two solid hours of exploration, we returned home, where we remained for the rest of the day. A few brave souls went for a run through the African jungle, which proved to be enjoyable and refreshing. I would say that this is the most complete and fun-filled days we have spent in Ghana thus far, and we are looking forward to spending the day at the Coconut Grove beach tomorrow! Stay tuned.
Henry and Phil

Classes Start!

Today our heads were scratched. By the Ghanaians. Our first plunge into the depths of Heritage Academy was not only refreshing but also left us ten American students yearning for more. The day started with an early morning walk to compensate for the classically-tardy native bus driver that never showed up. First period already behind us, we prepared for the first classes of the day. From the teacher’s perspective, classes went smoothly and without hitch. The younger classes were full of energy and curiosity while the older eighth graders brooded over the modest workload we presented. However, a common theme that connected all grades was the student body’s intense desire to learn. Compared to the discouraged American teen, the Heritage students all seemed to take in the majority of what we were teaching.
The reading periods provided fresh relief from the burdens of directing 20 rowdy Ghanaian kids. There were intimate group sessions that covered classics from Dr. Seuss to other short picture books that each child analyzed. Since we had the chance to connect one on one with each student, it was much easier to create a friendship with the kids. The free periods gave us Americans the opportunity to document the class-room happenings, and when we were not taking photos, we were embracing the shade of the empty classrooms.
Leaving school exhausted by the relentless torrent of energetic African children, we slumped in the couches for a bit and promptly decided to go on a journey into the brush that surrounded our guest house. The sun fell quickly, and we found ourselves half a kilometer from the base in stark darkness. All the same, the fires that the neighbors had lit provided enough light to guide us back to the house, ushering in sleep and wariness for another day at Heritage.

Simon and Chris

Happy Independence Day!

As you know, Westtown School does their annual senior project at the Heritage Academy. The Westtown Senior Project Crew arrived on Monday and has spent the last few days in Ghana. In addition, Eva Tsocanos and Julia Keehn arrived in Ghana yesterday to teach at the Heritage Academy for six weeks. They are there together with Bronwyn and the Liontree family who are staying for the year. We are excited to have everyone together to be working for the common good at Heritage.

On Tuesday, we watched the Heritage middle school boys play in the semi-final match of the inter-schools soccer tournament. After a long and amazing game, they sadly lost 0-1 and were knocked out of the tournament. The good news is that both the boys and girls teams won in the title in the volleyball tournament on Monday!

Today, March 6th, is Ghana’s independence day. We slept in and spent the afternoon in Mankessim Market which is always a time filled with sight-seeing and fun chaos.

Tomorrow is the first day of school! Eva, Julia and Bronwyn went to a soccer game in Mando while the Westtown group was in Mankessim. The came over to hang out for while after dinner and then went to a party in Ajumako while the Westtown group gathered for evening check-in and early bed time in preparation for their big day tomorrow. Eva & Julia are helping with reading and will start teaching on Monday. Bronwyn is working in the business office and school clinic.

We’ll be posting here and on Facebook so you can follow us on facebook by clicking here!

Your friends,

The Westtown Senior Project Crew

Tagged , , , , , ,

SCHOERKE FOUNDATION DOLLAR CAMPAIGN

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).

The Future Is Here

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…

Kwesi Koomson

Welcome to the Heritage Academy Blog!

The Heritage Academy was started by Franklin & Marshall alumni, Kwesi Koomson ’97.  In 2004, Kwesi established Heritage Academy in a church with 32 students. He intended for the Heritage Academy (PK-9th) to be a small school, however, the institution has grown in size with a successful enrollment of 1,057 students in 2011. In the fall of 2011, Heritage Academy will expand to include a secondary school (10-12th). Both campuses have consistently scored 100% pass on the national exams in a district where the average pass rate is 42%. Melissa Schoerke Koomson, wife and philanthropic partner of Kwesi Koomson, founded the Schoerke Foundation in 2006. The foundation continues to support Heritage Academy.

Kwesi currently works at the Westtown School in West Chester, PA which, along with Franklin & Marshall College, has a great working relationship with the Heritage Academy. Kwesi has brought students from from both schools over to teach and volunteer at the Heritage Academy and this blog is meant to document their experiences!

Tagged , , , ,
%d bloggers like this: