Thursday, October 22, 2015

HNC Alumni Update: Annie Twombly

Annie Twombly, 2014 HNC Certificate alum, shares an update from Kumasi, Ghana! She is now working for as the Communications Manager for Exponential Education. Read on to hear more her experiences working in Ghana. 

Exponential Education is a nonprofit based in Kumasi, Ghana. Its aim is to make education more accessible to Ghanaian middle school and high school students, particularly those who are struggling with the coursework or who are unable to pay tuition fees. Expo (as it is fondly referred to around the office) addresses this with a double-edged sword: by partnering with the administrators and teachers of schools in the communities surrounding Kumasi, the organization is able to identify junior high students who would benefit from after-school tutoring. Then moving to the high schools, Expo again works with the administration to identify the top performing students with financial needs. With these two student groups identified by school administrations, Expo pairs them together in a program known as Peer-to-Peer Tutoring: the identified high school students become paid tutors for the middle school students who are struggling to maintain high academic performance.

This is the heart behind Exponential Education: that students are empowered and enabled to help themselves succeed and continue with their education. Expo staff is present as support for each Peer-to-Peer Program, with each Program Associate facilitating the work of 5 tutors and approximately 30 middle school students. Other staff includes general facilitators for Programs, Operations, Communications, and Donor Relations.

I have been on the ground here in Ghana for a week, and already have seen Exponential Education reach a milestone: October 17th was the first Girls Leadership Conference, a product of Expo’s pilot Girls LEAP Program. For one Saturday, the participating girls from three different high schools all met together for a day of teambuilding, question and answer time with women in leadership positions in their field (a head nurse, a headmistress, a career-woman with children), and brainstorming ways to build confidence and develop leadership skills. All this was centered on the theme “No Single Story” in reference to Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s piece The Danger of a Single Story. The significance of this theme lies in allowing girls – and all people – to understand that they are not defined by one identity (such as being a girl) but are a complicated person that is made up of multiple identities (such as a girl, a sister, a dancer, an aspiring pilot, a leader). This idea had a powerful impact on the participants, culminating with each girl writing and performing poems that declared their confidence, rejected the opposition they might face, and most often ended with a smile and a laugh of joy. I couldn’t have asked for a more inspiring welcome to the work Exponential Education is doing, and very much look forward to the work of this next year.

Annie Twombly, 2014 HNC Certificate Alum