Born on a Tuesday
MLK scholars spend a week in Ghana. By Virginia Van de Wall ’12
Sierra Shorey ’12 will never forget the African name a stranger assigned her on her second-to-last night in Ghana. “Abina,” she says. “It means ‘born on a Tuesday.’ It will always be memorable to me because I actually was born on a Tuesday.”
Shorey explains why this particular incident made such a vivid impression on her. “I’m black in America but
not in Ghana,” she explains. “It was nice to feel connected to my ancestors while I was there, and talking with the man that gave me the African name meant a lot to me.”
Shorey is one of 29 Martin Luther King scholars who spent a week in Ghana during the College’s 2010 winter break. According to Malinda Smith, associate director for the Office of Student Engagement and Multicultural
Affairs and coordinator of the Martin Luther King Jr. Scholar Program, the program creates a living and learning community by emphasizing and integrating academic achievement, community service, and international and domestic travel.
All MLK scholars are required to complete a research paper before graduation that explores an issue of social
justice relevant to their career goals. Each year, the program takes upper-level students to a different country
so that they can examine in greater depth issues of interest to them.
While in Ghana, the group visited museums, sat in on classes at the University of Ghana, and participated in community service. Street Girls Aid, in particular, proved to be one of the most emotionally powerful volunteer opportunities for the students.
Street Girls Aid is a nongovernmental organization that helps young mothers who are living on the streets. The program provides care and education for children while their mothers go to work, typically as street carriers selling merchandise to passersby. Between 30 and 50 children are placed in a small
classroom with four teachers. The MLK scholars assisted them.
“One woman was nursing her own child while
trying to teach a room of 30 kids who were all over the place,” says Shorey, describing some of the challenges she observed.
After the trip, Malinda Smith explains, everyone
got together to discuss Ghana and its effect on them. “We went to Ghana and saw so many things,” says Smith. “Now, what are we going to do about it? How
are we going to carry ourselves? And, how can we have an impact on our respective communities?”
John Rawlins, assistant director of the Ithaca Achievement Program in the Office of Student Engagement and Multicultural Affairs, says he was impressed with the way the students wanted to help after the trip.
According to Rawlins, the scholars who returned from Ghana have raised money for a variety of Ghanaian organizations, including Street Girls Aid. “Students realize that there has to be a call for action,” Rawlins says. “You can’t go over there and then just come back and go about your usual business.”