Listen: Senior Lang Scholar Presentations
This spring, four graduating Lang Scholars shared their projects with the Swarthmore community. Conceived and endowed by Eugene M. Lang '38 H '81 and stewarded by the Lang Center for Civic and Social Responsibility, the Lang Opportunity Scholarship program offers a diverse range of benefits and opportunities to support the development of a project that creates a needed social resource in the U.S. or abroad.
Tyler Alexander ’17 (3:30), an astrophysics major from Short Hills, N.J., presents "Project Ké," which was designed to improve Haiti’s healthcare system by establishing a Mass Casualty Intervention (MCI) standard for Haitian healthcare providers, in partnership with Hospital Bernard Mevs. Project Ké retained in-country instructors to teach the most up-to-date methods of MCI to classes of Haitian healthcare providers, a structure that provides much-needed jobs for Haitians and ensures that MCI skills can continue to be taught and learned. Alexander is a member of Global Health Forum, whose mission is to empower students and community members to raise awareness and cultivate partnerships in order to improve global health.
Raven Bennett ’17 (18:00), a psychology major from Santa Monica, Calif., discusses the evolution of her Lang project. Driven by her abiding commitment to sexual violence prevention and consent education, Bennett shares the story of how her Lang Project evolved from "The Youth Activist Institute" to the "Fraternity Mentorship Program at Swarthmore College" (a replication and extension of her earlier YAI work) and shows how these initiatives encourage participants to use their new knowledge of sexual violence prevention to positively influence their community. Bennett, a resident assistant and a member of the Student Title IX Advisory Team, also helped establish SwatDeck, which organizes students into groups for trips into Philadelphia.
Bolutife "Bolu" Fakoya ’17 (27:10), a biology and sociology and anthropology major from Nigeria, discusses his Lang project "Abuja Science and Community Resource Centre (ASCRC)," which is an initiative that aims to provide an enriching environment where secondary school students in the Abuja region of Nigeria can explore the ways in which they can bridge the divide between their science education and their communities. By creating and deploying context-appropriate science curricula that enrich rather than replace the science curricula currently in place in schools, ASCRC empowers students to discover pathways in which the scientific principles they learn in school can be applied in ways that leave a positive impact in their communities. Fakoya supports students through his work as a resident assistant, student academic mentor, and writing associate. He placed first in the SwatTank Innovation Competition last year.
Sedinam Worlanyo ’17 (36:05), a computer science and economic development major from Ghana, shares her project, "YenAra Odoben Robotics," which increased the critical and logical thinking skills of the students in Odoben; exposed the participants to a different side of STEM and increased their confidence in STEM fields; encouraged problem-solving relevant to the specific community context of Odoben; and encouraged broad understanding of the use of technology and how it can be applied to problem-solving through teamwork. She addressed the Class of 2020 at First Collection and placed first in the SwatTank Innovation Competition last year, and she served as a student academic mentor (SAM) the past two years.
Learn about Swarthmore’s impact on the local and global community at lifechanging.swarthmore.edu.
Jennifer McGee: Welcome. Welcome everyone. My name is Jennifer McGee. I am the Associate Director of the Lang Center for Civic and Social responsibility. You are very welcome here today. We have a great crowd. We have students, staff, faculty, community members, some guests from the Uncommon Individual Foundation have joined us here today, so I'm really excited to see all of you, and just delighted that you're here with us.
Whether through our internship, or project grant programs, training or volunteer opportunities, community partnerships, or engaged scholarship, the Lang Center strives to create positive social impact by connecting communities, curriculum, and the campus. The Lang Opportunities Scholarship Program, or LOS for short, is one of the Lang Center's signature programs. It was founded in 1981 through the vision, generosity, and endowment of Eugene M. Lang, class of '38. In years past, Mr. Lang would join the Lang scholars four times a year for a seven a.m breakfast meeting on a Saturday. He loves his Lang scholars, and he always enjoyed the opportunity to hear about them, and their projects. Having been through the dissertation process myself, I would say sometimes those breakfasts felt a bit like a dissertation defense, but at the end of the event, Mr. Lang would come to the point of being teary-eyed expressing his admiration and respect for the Lang scholars, and all that you've been able to accomplish.
So, while he's not here today with us in person, he is here with us in spirit, and I just want to take a minute ,and let's give him a hand for his incredible vision and generosity.
So, whether building local capacity for action, providing packages of innovative products and services, or building a social movement, the LOS program has made it possible for Lang scholars to collectively provide social value to thousands of people in hundreds of communities around the world. Here today, you will hear from some of these social change makers: Tyler Alexander, Raven Bennett, Bolutife Fakoya, and Sedinam Worlanyo. These Lang scholars demonstrate what it means to be socially responsible, civically engaged, and committed to innovating on behalf of the public good.
As the Lang scholar advisor, I have been personally moved and inspired by these Lang scholars, and I'm certain that once their presentations begin you will understand why. Combined, they have committed 2,250 hands-on hours towards their projects, all the while being student-workers, athletes, members of political, religious, cultural and social groups on campus, as well as full-time students at Swarthmore College, which is no small feat. After each individual scholar presents, we'll have time for maybe one, or two questions, and then after everyone's finished, we can open it up for a broader discussion at the end. So with that, I'll invite Tyler Alexander to start us off. Thank you, Tyler.
Tyler Alexander: Thank you everybody for coming. I appreciate it. Anybody who can't hear me, say something, and I'll speak louder. So, my name is Tyler Alexander, and I'm a senior Lang scholar. And, for the past three or four years, I did some work in Haiti. I'm going to be speaking a little bit about that. But before I talk ... I'd like for one thing that [inaudible 00:04:02] that everybody else for before ... And we're going to hear a lot of stuff what I did, what [inaudible 00:04:12] did, and what everybody else, which is wonderful.
I think it's great work. But what's also really important is this talking to a lot of people, how to help yourself, or other people, who may not be necessarily directly involved with in [inaudible 00:04:28], but also ... because the cool part of social change is ... the collective movement ... so, with that said, keep that in mind, if you take away anything from this presentation is doesn't have to be what I did on August 30th, 2015, it should be that let's run through [inaudible 00:04:57] and social change because this is all about a lot more than just this. This is about being a global community.
Great, so ... so, the first thing I ask myself when I was doing this learning project, is do all lives matter? I think if you ask anybody, [crosstalk 00:05:29] of course, all lives matter, then you can ... and the second question I asked, if you probe a little bit further, is do all lives matter equally? And then on the surface, a lot of people would say, "Yes, all lives matter. Completely." But then you ask, "How's your son?" and like, "THey're the most important person in my life." And then you get this kind of [sounds like cohesion 00:05:53] of equality, and what it means to be important.
And so, I kind of blended this question, "Do all lives matter equally?", and on the surface it seems like a really simple question, but when you look at today's world, it's not such a simple question. And so, what I invite you to do, and what I did, not that you want to, but I asked this question. Okay, how would people say that matters ... firefighter, or a garbage person? I think a lot of the people would say, "Well, a firefighter saves lives, and I think the firefighter matters more." And then, the philosophical person would say ... [inaudible 00:06:48] or maybe they answer.
But these people matter. And it goes on and on. There's no one right answer is what I'm trying to say. This idea that a life could be more important than another life ... we need to get rid of that. What we need to do is to start thinking that all lives matter whether it's a firefighter, or a garbage person, or someone across the country. So, this is kind of what I wanted to put in this project. So, what I tried to do is a systems-thinking approach which essentially what that means is I incorporated a lot of different methods, solving this problem, hoping all lives should matter, but they don't, particularly located in healthcare.
And, I incorporated a lot of different end goals. What I really stumbled upon, and what I focused on, is why are people being unequally, and what can I do? What I thought was pretty interesting, someone who inspired me ... a lot of people inspired me ... one person who really inspired me was Dr. Paul Farmer, not sure if anybody knows him, but he's done a lot of work in health-related fields. After reading of his work, and thinking about, okay what did Paul Farmer do, and what could I do, what I started thinking of, we live in this society, in this world, where we think in order for someone to succeed, someone else needs to be brought down.
And that's not true. There's no reason why one person, in order to do well, somebody else has to be poor. It's okay for two people to do well. And so, so what I did with this idea about healthcare is that I started focusing on CPR training in Haiti, and the developing world where health inequality was pretty prevalent, and I felt like people deserved better care, just because all people deserve to be treated equally. We'll see an image of our rural area innovative health [sounds like baby 00:09:22]. This is a [inaudible 00:09:24].
So ... what we did in health clinics pictures ... I worked with two hospitals in Haiti, and we developed a CPR training. The real key of this is that I asked these questions about health inequality, and I didn't propose a solution, and say, "You have to do this." But I communicated the wide spectrum of resources that we had, and was able to provide a service for something that the hospitals were looking for. In this case, two hospitals were looking for CPR training.
So, I worked with a couple of doctors, and hospital administrators to develop a CPR training protocol, and we trained hospital staff ... nurses, and the NPs ... CPR. And we worked a little bit further in doing ... so, this is CPR ... I'm going to go a little bit further, and talk about an ECG reading, electrocardiography , get doctors involved, and started training nurses, and also emerging doctors, giving them more exposure.
So, this is me being a patient ... and the ECG reading and the lab ... [inaudible 00:11:01] and a bunch of people. This is the team of the one of the hospitals that living through the [inaudible 00:11:06] of hospitals. Myself and others trained for about seven months, and set up a sustainable program. And people started coming, and training, so we had a training program. And that's still going on.
The next thing that I was able to do the Laud program is to set up this mass-casualty preparedness program. So, after CPR, for about two years, it's successful, but one of the components that was missing was [inaudible 00:11:49]. We could resuscitate somebody, but the infrastructure wasn't necessarily there to ... to get them to a destination after resuscitation. So, I began with a hospital with Canada, and thought this was great what we had done with CPR, but we could do more. We had more time and resources, and Jennifer was very supportive, and a lot of other people were very supportive.
So, what I did midway through 2015 until now that's still going on is work with hospitals [inaudible 00:12:28] in Haiti to help them with mass-casualty preparedness protocols. So, people that don't know what that is, essentially something like the earthquake, a disaster of any sort, but ravaging the hospital, and other goes its resources. The hospital needs a program ... a protocol for how to respond. Kind of like how you wake up really late after your alarm goes off, you keep snoozing it, and you realize like you have to get somewhere, so instead to find your keys, and your tie is over your shoulder, kind of do it as you get out of the car to make it on time, you need a system that can support this.
Since 2015, I started working on this, and since the earthquake, the hospital didn't have a protocol in place. This is the largest trauma center, and they still hadn't had a protocol in place. So, it's not some small ... it's the most massive trauma center. So, what we did is develop a program to train individuals in order to respond to disasters. It was awesome. It was really cool. People were really excited about this, and ... we had a lot of participation.
So, I'll show you some pictures. So, here's one picture ... here's another picture. These are all doctors, and nurses, and administrators, and you can see people here pretending to be really sick, you know, and collapsing into each other's arms. A really awesome experience.
But even more than that, it was really beneficial. The hospital was really happy to have us, training. This is the team that was trained, about 16, 17 ... couldn't get everyone in the picture ... doctors and nurses ... surgeons, EMTs, administrators ... you name it. Anybody who is part of the hospital could serve a role in this program, you got in. Here we had people with different roles, different sheets, learning what to do. With the Lang Center here, we were able to offer supplies. Keep in mind, this is just me, and this hospital staff, working, and everybody else who was helping out.
What was pretty awesome was right after this training, Hurricane Matthew hit about two months after we finished. And ... we had gone through simulations and whatnot, and this program is still ongoing, and do simulations. They meet once every month, twice every month, studies show that leads to an effective response, part of it is just keeping up with the training. We've done simulations with real hurricanes, real disasters, and before this, they had done nothing. Two months after this, Hurricane Matthew hit, and the hospital did an awesome job. The CMO ... no, the CEO ... the Chief Medical Office right here, he said, "We had the best response. We were well-prepared." They published a before, and after, and everything went really smoothly. So, that was really rewarding, this project ... that ...
So, with that said, in the interest of time, and to let everybody else go, I'd like to thank Mr. Lang for setting up this scholarship, and this whole [inaudible 00:16:23] room. And to let people like myself, and the other Lang scholars, and younger Lang scholars continue this mission of creating sustainable change. And before I take questions, I'd just like to say again, remember, that change starts, especially after generation. And then younger generation goes forward, it's always going to be moving downward, and progressing.
So, what we really need to do is keep this question of all lives matter in your mind, and it's not just one program, or an other program that someone may do, but it's this ideology and this thought that need you to say, "People don't need to suffer because someone else does well." Once we start spreading this, then I think we'll see lots of things changing in the global scale. This is just one small part of what I hope what will be a larger project, facilitated by everybody else along ... to ... raise the quality of healthcare globally, and to provide better care.
So, thank you very much. So, Raven is going to be talking about her project now, and all the awesome work she's been doing. Thank you, Raven, and I'll turn it over to her.
Raven Bennett: So, thank you for that introduction, Tyler. Can everyone hear me? I guess I can do the same thing.
First off, I just want to extend my eternal gratitude to Mr. Lang because he has with this program that he has created and endowed, he has changed the life of every scholar that's participated as well as created that network of impact that comes from every individual scholar, and so, his work is incredible, and I consider him a role model, and a really important factor and person in my life.
So, we've spent all this time on this project, and it's really hard to begin to explain what the experience is like. And so, just to give you a taste, I tried to break down numbers.
So, we have for my project alone. 846 days of work. 90 participants, aged 14 to 22. 21 training sessions that I organized. A 10-week internship. Five community partners. Two programs. One mission. And I'll throw in there as well one thesis because my honors thesis is also on my project.
So, there's one motivating statistic for me that led me to this project, and that statistic is one in six. One in six women will be the target of an attempted, or complete, sexual assault, rape, in her lifetime. So, if you look at this room, say there about 54 people, half of us are women, that's four point five women in this room. And I'm one of those women. So, I personally was sexually assaulted, who was raped, on campus, my freshmen year. At first, I was very sad and scared, and then I was angry, and then I was passionate. And I was motivated. And I said, "This happened to me for a reason. I have to do something about this."
I also want to add, doing for the research, I want to add to this number. Men, and people of other genders, are also sexually assaulted. Also, if you look at the statistics, people of color, and queer people are sexually assaulted as higher rates at well. So, I just want to acknowledge that.
Okay, so, empowerment. I wanted to think of a way that people could engage with this issue, and feel like they could handle it. It's such a difficult issue. It's such a heavy issue. It's an issue that touches all of us, and I wanted to engage with people in way that didn't leave feeling depressed and despondent, but left them feeling like they could do something about it. And that idea came from my ... actually psychology professor, who was my thesis advisor, who told us one day in class, "People can handle bad news, and difficult things if they feel like they can do something about it." So, that's really the motivating theory behind all my project.
So, I felt like, from the beginning that I wanted to go back to my community. I'm from Los Angeles, particularly Santa Monica, and work with them because even in that community, because I didn't feel like I got as much information about sexual assault, and sexual assault prevention as I would have liked to, so I really wanted to go back to my community to make an impact.
The Youth Activism Institute was born. And this is a collaboration between myself, and the ULCA Rape Treatment Center, and the Santa Monica Police [inaudible 00:21:43], and it was a 10 day program that was very intensive. We had 28 young people join us, and it was really transformative. We started at the fundamentals. What is gender? What are the boxes that we're put into because of our gender? And how does that influence the way we act in the world, and interact with others? Then we moved into how that connects to sexual violence, and how to identify sexual violence, be an active bystander against it, and also support our friends and ourselves if we find that we are targets of sexual violence, or our friends are targets of sexual violence.
We also incorporated a self-care unit because we wanted to really ... you know, we recognize that these are young people, and this is a difficult topic, and we want to support them emotionally as well. Originally it's called it's called a Youth Activism Institute, so I envision these students going out into the world, and doing their own projects, and as I work with them, I sort of found their developmental stage may not have led them to do such sort-of self-directed individual work without more infrastructure. While in this iteration, they were not able to go forth, and do projects, we really did emphasize ways they as individuals and their individual reactions, or interactions, could make change.
I'd say in future iterations, I'd be really motivated to find ways to create the infrastructure for them to do programs. So, let's talk about some of the outcomes.
We achieved our goal, which was to increase participant knowledge about gender stereotypes, consent, sexual assault, victim survivor support, and all of those were increased at the end of the program compared to the beginning.
Some of the other measures of success that I saw were qualitative measures, and that is, for example, one girl on the last day cried, and I said, "Why are you crying?" And she was like, "I don't want it to be over." And I said, "At the beginning of the project, I could never have imagined that there'd be young people who wouldn't want to stop talking about sexual violence, and preventing sexual violence." So, that indicates to me there was some kind of transformative action that took place.
I'm through with this project. I guess I'm especially frugal, and good at saving money because I had more funds. And I said, "Let's keep this going. Let's push this out. Let's extend impact. How can we take this idea, and took it to another community? Take the same theory of empowerment."
My other community that means a lot to me is Swarthmore. Actually, Al Brooks, who was a Lang scholar, a recent alum, approached one day, and said, "Hey, I'm part of Phi Psi. I'm on the exec board. Would you be willing to come and train the exec board on how to do a training in the house for the brothers?" So, I trained those brothers, and we had conversations. And they said, "That went really well, but we think the conversation means to keep going." So, I kept engaging in dialogue with them, and at one point, the Phi Psi president said to me, "You know, I had brothers coming in, high schoolers coming in, and I feel like they're not at the same knowledge level in terms of campus culture as other students. What if we made a mentorship program for them?"
And I said, "That's a great idea. Let's do it." [crosstalk 00:25:11] And so the fraternity mentorship program was born. As I mentioned, this is my thesis, so I actually had a treatment group, and a control group. The treatment group did five sexual violence prevention trainings as well as a mentorship component where older brothers and younger brothers, including pledges, were paired up, and met at least once a week for an hour for the entire semester to talk about these issues.
Then, the control group did the sexual violence prevention trainings without the mentorship component. We found that participation in the mentorship program resulted in greater positive changes in attitudes related to male sexual violence fitting behaviors, which is essentially means that the mentorship program made more attitudes change. There's also this quote ... I'd like to say I like to balance the quantitative and qualitative data. One of the brothers said, "Like a lot of guys in fraternities, I came from a conservative high school. This experience, which means the program, has made overall more aware and conscious person."
I recently had a reflection with all the brothers, and we continued to have dialogue, and they said, "We need to continue this program. We feel like we've made progressed. Continuing this program would be really important to me, and increasing that progress."
In terms of this program right now, I'm actually looking at ways to scale it up, and continue it here as well as extend it out to different campuses. And I'm really excited about that possibility.
Thanks for listening. I'm Raven, and ... So, now I'm excited to bring up a fellow Lang scholar and incredible person, Bolutife.
Bolutife Fakoya: So, hi. Let me move out of the way. I'm Bolutife. I am a senior. I am bio and social [inaudible 00:27:14] double major, and I'm here to talk to you about my Lang project, which is the Abuja Science and Community Resource Centre.
I struggled for a bit about the best way to relay this information to you. We've been through a lot of revisions, a lot of change, and impactful growth, and I thought I would just inundate you with my logic model. And go through everything that we have been refining for the last two and a half years. But then I thought, no, let's do this another way. Let's start at the beginning.
I'm Nigerian. I'm an international student. This is where I'm from. And it's where my family lives. And my project is based here in Abuja, which is right in the heart of Nigeria. Abuja is one of the largest cities in Nigeria. It's rapidly growing ... one of the fastest growing in the world. And it's got really cool communities inside there. And they're so very different. It's a very diverse city, and it's absolutely beautiful. It's surrounded by parks, and nature, and wildlife, and it plays a really key role in that project, which I'll come back to later.
And finally, Abuja, as I mentioned it's very diverse, it's a very religious city. And what happens is that unfortunately, as in many parts of the world, religion and ethic-affiliated can play a huge role in educational attainment.
So, we went to the drawing board, and said, "What can we do? What is a social problem? How can we address it?" In particular, I wanted to find ways to engage in education, and so, let's look at education in Abuja. There's some really quality education resources such as high schools, but they tend to be very much locked away in international high schools that aren't available to the wider public, and to the people who are looking for sort of education, especially young people in the city.
Then, we looked at science. I'm a bio major, and a big fan on STEM, and once again, there are one, or two resources available in the city, but there also sort of not available to the people who are looking to access them, the young people in the city who are very excited about this sort of stuff.
And finally, the idea of community. As I mentioned, Abuja is made up of these smaller sort of neighborhoods, but people, when we conducted our initial surveys, weren't finding ways to interact with those community, a way to get involved. So, we wanted to find a project to break down those barriers, and get kids involved with the community.
So, I went back to the drawing board again, and said, "How can we address all of these through an educational approach?" And the first thing we did was talk to students. We conducted surveys and focus groups, and said, "What are you looking for in educational program and opportunity?" And we conducted surveys, we met with students in schools and out of schools, and really got a comprehensive picture of what they wanted to do.
Then, we talked to teachers because teachers have been doing this for a very long time. Institutional memory of the highest order. And I didn't want at any point in time that we were competing with the teachers. We wanted to supplement what they were doing, do it in conjunction with them, so that they were ... so that we could engage with them on a deeper level, and really get a lot of value out of it.
From there, we moved onto areas of strength. My project uses an appreciative-inquiry model, which looks at areas that students are working very well, that they're passionate about because we feel if we can support that those ... the skills they learn and doing those will transfer to other parts of their lives and education. And so we came up with STEM. We should have students who are really excited about STEM education, who really want to learn more about science and technology.
So, we started developing curricula, and we started talking to the faculty here at Swarthmore, and find ways to engage with these students, and get this knowledge right in order to go out, and start doing it, and start the program.
But then we went back to the drawing board, and rehashed it because we wanted to center this around critical thinking. It's important in STEM, it's important in all parts of education. Being able to look at a concept, break it down, and find different points of interaction with it ... in particular, in the idea of research. Research is a really important component of STEM, because not only it is encouraging for students to go out and learn new things, it's encouraging them to go out, learn things, and apply them to different situations, especially in their communities.
So, that's how the ASCRC was formed which is a scientific and media resource center, which is a STEM-centered resource center which runs critical thinking workshops, scientific writing workshops, and also promotes student-led research projects. That's me ... building it.
I'm going to walk you through each of these steps mean, and what has been able to do in the community so far.
So, the STEM-centered resource center, these kids are really excited about STEM education. They really like science. We talked to the teachers, and they said, "They've been really passionate about their biology, chemistry, physics classes." So, we're in support that. So, we started library ... we have a library section of the center, but also providing computers and technology that they can be able to come to after school, and look up topics they're interested in. Learn more. What's really important is that we're using Nigerian examples in our training modules. It's really important that these students can see how these principles of STEM work out in their own communities. [crosstalk 00:31:46]
The second is critical thinking workshops. We design entire modules that encourage students, all ages between 14 and 18 ... students who really begin to engage in critical thinking as a way of learning. As I mentioned earlier, Abuja is a very religious city, and so we wanted to ensure in all our cohorts ... we've had two so far, each of eight students, we had equal representation of men and women because that's really important, especially if you think about how Nigeria is growing in the future, and engaging more dynamics.
Inside of the writing workshops ... I'm a writing associate here at Swarthmore, and I love teaching writing. I love the idea of being able to work someone through the thinking process as shown through their writing. And if they want to be scientists, you know, writing and communicating science effectively is a really key skill that not a lot of people have, but it's really important to nurture. So, we did all of those.
And finally, we went to the student-led research projects. These students took what they learned in the center, we out into the communities, did research projects, and came back, and presented it. So, we had students doing some work on internet penetration in rural communities. We have students doing work of reading primary literature, and then explaining it to everyone around them. We had students working at waste disposal and aquatic life, and he will be presenting his work to us over the summer.
So, we're very excited to see what's happening. Students learning principles about science, going into the community, answering questions that they saw, and coming back, and presenting it to the broader community.
My favorite part that I didn't tell you about, but that is really important, are the field trips, and community outreach. I mentioned before these students, saw they lived within these communities, but didn't have many ways to interact with them outside of school. So, we organized field trips to the planetarium, and to the space center to see examples of Nigerian science in action.
Nigeria has satellites. We've had them going up, giving us weather information. None of the students knew that. So, we took them to the planetarium, so they could really get ideas on how they could begin to engage their skills as scientists and researchers in a Nigerian context.
To celebrate World Environment Day, we also teamed up with a local primary school to plant trees with the students to encourage principles of environmental conservation, and being aware of the effects that our human actions are having on the really beautiful environment of Abuja that I showed earlier.
So, I actually walked you through all of this, but I needed to break it down. But then what I also like to realize is this scholarship is not just so much a project, but also me as an individual. It's been tied to the work I do here at Swarthmore as a bio and social anth major, the summers I spent, the internships I've done, and the really cool relationships I've built with people like Jenn, and also like Sedinam, whose project is also STEM-centered ... another fellow Lang scholar of mine.
So, where are we going forward with this project? First thing we're going to do is revise the project. This summer is going to be spent reflecting on what's be done, and going back to the curriculum, and make changes that need to be made based on what some of the students told us. And second, we're going to recruit and expand. We've been working with volunteers from local high schools as well as teachers, but through spotlight sessions, we got the idea of being able to recruit from universities, students who are majoring in STEM who want to find ways to teach, so working with them to sort of include them in our model.
And also, working with our program of alums. We have 16 alums who've been through the program, who really enjoyed it, and other ways they want to come back, and begin working with other students who are working with the ASCRC.
And finally, I want to expand the project. We've been working primarily with one school in Abuja. We've received options from other schools who want to implement our program in their STEM education, and I mentioned that the [inaudible 00:34:59] here in Abuja, were receiving help from a library project in Enugu, which is south of Nigeria, who wants to incorporate this model into their IB project, and expand it as they go.
And finally, we want to repeat it. We're going to out. We have two cohorts so far. We keep doing this again. It's been really impactful, and really important, and we're happy to see the progress we've made.
And that's the project. It might feel like it's very hard to separate the project from what I've been doing, and from what I want to do post-Swarthmore, so I'm here, and I'm going to be doing science for the next six years. And I'm going to be getting my graduate degree in microbiology, and then I'm going to teach science. I think it's really important. It's a really fun way to get involved, and engaged with students, and think about how science can be applied to principles of community engagement and responsibility.
With that, I'd like to thank some of my wonderful co-facilitators, and the students you've been working with, the technical school we've partnered with so far, which is Nadella, and Angier who we've been partnering with to provide support as well as ways to advertise our work in the Abuja community, for all the work we've been able to do so far.
And with that, I think [inaudible 00:35:59] will have any questions that they have.
Sedinam Worlanyo: Good afternoon, everybody. How are you doing? [crosstalk 00:36:11] Yes, my name is Sedinam Worlanyo, and I just wanted to start by thanking you for being here. I see, some of my best friends ... [inaudible 00:36:27]
Okay, so I want to start off by telling you about this song in Ghana. There's a patriotic song entitled "Yen Ara Asaase Ni", and the song talks about how the world that Ghana as a nation can prosper is dependent on the behavior of the citizens, the character of the citizens, and the skills that they have. This was a song I learned in grade school, but the message stuck with me. "Yen ara" means "our very own", translated in Ghana, and this meaning of our very own bugged me my entire Swarthmore education.
Growing up, when I looked at different problems in the community, and looked at solutions in the community, I would see that a lot of the solutions were foreign [inaudible 00:37:20]. And it was important for me for my Swarthmore education, through the classes I took, through the clubs I was involved in, through my special major, and just through my life project, I was going to, I put myself through critical thinking skills, problem-solving skills, that would enable me to think about home-borne solutions. Solutions that would be for Ghanians, from Ghanaians as well, and make that sustainable. So, that'd how my project YenAra Odoben Robotics was kind of born as well.
So, that's me smiling in the middle. And, YenAra Robotics is a workshop that I held over the summer with students from Odoben Senior High School in the center region of Ghana. And we started improving critical thinking and problem-solving skills, and increasing the students to STEM in a hands-on, practical, and fun way.
So, where is Odoben? So, as I mentioned, it is the center region of Ghana, and it's the village my grandmother grew up in. I grew up in [inaudible 00:38:22], Ghana, which is [inaudible 00:38:26], but I would spend a lot of my holidays, a lot of my weekends, with my grandmother, in the village. And it was ... great because it was an opportunity to get to know [inaudible 00:38:39], know the people of Odoben, and the community she grew up in. As a result of that, when I was thinking about my life project, and the community I wanted to work in, Odoben was the first thing in my mind.
It's a village where there's one main senior high school, and that's the students I work with. So, what happened was over winter break, I had, my team had a community assessment where we went to the school. We talked to the headmistress, we talked to different levels of administration, staff, and we talked to 30 students who were in first-year, second-year classes as well, at the senior high school. Our findings revealed that a lot of the students learned through rote memorization, and this is something that you seen typically in the senior high schools in Ghana. So, if I ask, for example, "What is a computer?" You'll have everybody in that class saying the same line that the teacher gave them, so we [inaudible 00:39:39] information, we wanted to increase critical thinking skills, or problem-solving skills. So, that's what my project sought to address.
And the way it worked is that we have two main phases. We had the teacher training phase, and the student phase where ... with the teacher training phase, we worked with three teachers. Initially, we also worked with three teachers to do the training. But what happened when I got there on the day is that we had six teachers sign up, so they're here, and interested, and wanted to know exactly what this girl from Swarthmore was going [inaudible 00:40:15].
So, we had the teacher training session early. The teachers were supposed to assemble the robots, take them apart, and put them back together. And then we had a program the next week to learn how to to program the robots. We had the teachers work with us the next week to bring their knowledge to the students, and it was interesting because ... it was interesting seeing the outcomes. We worked with 25 girls in the school. And for example, one of my students, Millicent, in the beginning of the program, she wouldn't talk in class at all. And it was interesting to see how she evolved over time, and how her confidence came over time.
And when I went over with her break, and speaking to the other teachers, and [inaudible 00:41:05] her performace in her other classes has really improved. So, that was one outcome that was unexpected that I thought was interesting to see it realized.
Another thing, was when the first day of class, students were laying out assembled parts to get different types of robots, they were initially scared to even touch the robots because [inaudible 00:41:27]. It was interesting see the difference between in the beginning where they wouldn't even touch the packs, ended up not touching the packs, to trying put them together, and then finally having a robot, and one they had assembled, and put together. So, that's very valuable.
In addition to that, there was a lot of team-building, teamwork that went on, and it was great to see how the students learned how to work together as a team. As far as the values program, we wanted to prepare them with team-building exercises so we had critical-thinking workshops, we had [inaudible 00:42:07] exercises. That was enough that we think how we could be solving problems.
Throughout ... what was the outcome going to be? I found that my confidence as well did increase. I want to tell you, Lisa ... Lisa is one of my mentors here at Swarthmore. And I remember wondering how professors at Swarthmore are, how are they so great at like teaching. I noticed that when I was teaching, I'd be like, "Slow down. Make sure to reach all the students in a specific way." And it was a challenge ... it was difficult. And I found, [inaudible 00:42:47], and my teaching presentation also improved.
Swarthmore has been helpful as a resource. From my classes, the classes that I took ... I did an independent study at the end of my junior, and it allowed me to do research on what robotics was, and what we were using it for as we applied [inaudible 00:43:15].
Additionally, I had the opportunity to visit Walnut Elementary School in [inaudible 00:43:19] where they're doing robotics workshop as well. I got up, and did [inaudible 00:43:27] for Swarthmore. So, that independent study was helpful in shaping how I thought about my project.
In addition to that, speaking to people like Jennifer and Mege as well as brainstorming, just having that idea of how I wanted to think about my [inaudible 00:43:44]. My professors were helpful. Now this is a nine course cycle. It's a course that takes a curve that I've designed, and it shows people who, if you're thinking about implementing a robotics workshop, you're be able to go through the standards course to see the lessons you can develop ... the lessons you can learn, and also how to make it sustainable, and scale.
So, that brings me to lessons, and lessons I've learned. Going into the program, initially, I was just ... I didn't realize the value of icebreakers. I was going to just go, and then do the program ... I notice how the icebreakers were essential in having the students get to know each other, and get to know one another, and get to know the mentors of the program. And, that was one of my lessons.
Additionally, my takeaway was my relationships that I built through the program. I would never have imagined getting to know the students on such a personal level, one-on-one, caring about their families, caring about the things they had to do outside of school. And, I was only able to build that relationship, and invest in those relationships because other people had invested in me as well here at Swarthmore.
Yeah, just reflecting on my experience, I'm just immensely grateful to all the support systems I've had here at Swarthmore. For all the people in the room ... I see some faces, and I get so excited, and I'm like smiling at them.
But yeah, my professors and the classes I'm taking, definitely influenced how I think about ... what to bring to my community, and how I want to move forward ... and make a change as well. So yeah, thank for your classes.