Carter G. Woodson School of Challenge students are headed to Kenya next week for a month-long excursion.
It will be the first international trip for the local charter school, which educates students in grades K-12.
“That’s one of the things I dreamed about when I started Carter G. Woodson,” said Hazel Mack, who started the school in 1997. “I wanted our children here in the inner cities of Winston-Salem to not be limited to Winston-Salem, to not be limited to North Carolina, to not be limited to the shores of the U.S. of A.”
Carter G. Woodson’s student body is nearly 100 percent black and Hispanic and many come from low income households, but the school has found a formula for success that eludes other public and charter schools. Its graduation rate is consistently 100 percent, and 94 percent of its graduates go on to college or vocational school.
The students will be traveling to Mombasa, the second largest city in the Kenya. It is located on Mombasa Island and sprawls to the mainland. The warm, tropical climate makes it ideal for tourists. The bustling city also has a prominent port and an international airport.
Principal Ben Harris – a former attorney at the Legal Aid Society, where Mack is a regional director – helped make the trip a reality. He lived in Mombasa for two years after law school while working as a law clerk for a human rights organization. He used his connections there to find host families for the students. He said the trip will feature a safari, visits to museums and attractions and classes at a local school.
“I hope the students will know that they’re connected to the larger global world and to give back to the community,” said Harris, who will be accompanying the students.
During his time in Kenya, Harris learned Kiswahili, which, along with English, is one of the country’s official languages.
“It’s a very old Kiswahili stronghold,” he said of the city. “In order to thrive, you have to speak Kiswahili.”
Students have been taking Kiswahili lessons from Kenya native Purity Ruchugo, who owns Umoja African Crafts on Trade Street. Proceeds from the shop support Sister2Sister International Outreach Ministry’s work in Kenya and other countries.
“I wanted them to know simple sentences like asking for water, greetings, ordering in restaurants and they have gone beyond my expectations,” said Ruchugo, who plans to hold Kiswahili classes for the public at the shop in the fall.
Junior Nazir Smith, who has previously taken Spanish, said that learning Kiswahili was “way harder” but worth the effort. He is looking forward to making new friends and learning about a new culture this summer.
According to Harris, the entire trip is being completely paid for through donations and fundraising events. Students were selected to take the journey after the school held an application process that included an essay submission.
Kadijah Agganie was one of the students picked. She said she is extremely grateful for the community support.
“This is just what I wanted,” said Agganie. “For people I don’t even know to give money for me to do this is so generous.”
Agganie said she always wanted to travel and is looking into an international volunteer program that will allow her to return overseas in the next few years.
Nicole Henry, a graduation coach at the school, will make the trip as well. Henry said her late aunt did volunteer work in Kenya for 15 years through the Peace Corps and her late mother would come visit her there. It’s long been her wish to see Kenya.
“To fulfill a dream of my aunt and mother is full circle to me,” she said.
The other students scheduled to go to Kenya are Juan Morales, Jennifer Perez Cortez, James Adams and Yanil Roa.