One evening in late April, my father shared information with me regarding a woman, Alexandria Lee, who hoped to build a charter school in Rochester. As my father is often rambling on about the Rochester school system, I nodded as he spoke, while continuing to surf Amazon.com for warm long underwear. Then, a particular sentence paused me mid-scroll.
Dad said “The students will live in a boarding school in Ghana.”
I tore my gaze from the screen and directed a powerful stare at my father, cutting him off. “Tell me everything, starting from the beginning”. My father smirked; he had foreseen this behavior. Having my full attention, he started again.
“The charter school, called The Anew School, will range from seventh to twelfth grade. The first two years of school will take place in Ghana, West Africa. The students will return to America to finish their last four years of school in a boarding school, hopefully in Rochester. I don’t know much else.”
I pressed for Lee’s contact information. I needed details. The idea of allowing underprivileged youth to experience a foreign country for a full two years captivated my imagination for months until my father finally forwarded me her email address. Now in Mongolia, I sent out an email. Alexandria and I chose a time to Skype. For forty five minutes I asked a multitude of questions. Each answer invested me more in The Anew School’s future.
The school’s mission is to transform under performing or failing African American boys into college graduates. The Anew School is aptly named. It gives students, who for their entire lives have been surrounded by the mantra that they will likely end up in jail, the ability to start anew in a controlled and supportive environment.
Alexandria explained that Ghana is a perfect choice for the boarding school’s location, as the majority of African slaves had departed from West Africa before being shipped to the Americas. The children will learn, in addition to a regular curriculum, West African history along with a Ghanaian language. The students will come to recognize that their ancestral past did not begin in chains, harvesting tobacco. By living in Ghana, they will discover how rich and full of culture their history actually is.
These teens, without this school, will most likely never set foot outside the United States, let alone North America. By founding the Anew School, educators will have the capability to not only improve the education of their students, but also expose them to new ideas and experiences in a way that can only be achieved by living abroad.