Online only: letters to Africa
By Hayley Xue, Staff Reporter
One piece of paper can form a friendship between two teens: one in Ghana and one in the United States, with completely different cultures, lifestyles and experiences.
Conestoga English teacher Michael Trainer helps form these friendships through a pen pal club that allows ’Stoga students to correspond with students at Heritage Academy in Ghana. Social studies teacher John Koenig and Trainer have formed close ties with the school, and with its related charity, the Schoerke foundation.
Over the summer, Trainer volunteered at Heritage Academy, teaching poetry and communication skills to students in grades sixth through eighth. The classes were part of a summer enrichment program for students attending the academy.
“It was so moving to see the kids being called up to get letters and packages from people they had connected with, but it was also very sad to see the kids who didn’t get any mail, or the kids who don’t have any pen pals,” Trainer said. “Mail is really their lifeline.”
At first, only Trainer’s freshman students wrote letters to the students in Ghana, but now he is looking to expand the project into a club. Sophomores Brittany Bowers and Eric Rodriguez are among the students who wrote to the Heritage Academy students last year.
“A lot of people were really surprised at how religious they were in their letters,” Bowers said.
Students and teachers are looking forward to forging a unique connection with students in Ghana and helping the Heritage Academy through fundraising and spreading the word about the Schoerke foundation. The Schoerke foundation has close ties to Heritage Academy in Ghana, and to people in the Conestoga community.
Koenig, a member of the Schoerke Foundation board of directors, has helped to establish the summer program for the students of Heritage Academy and to provide scholarships to students in need of financial aid.
“The goal of the school is to provide opportunities for kids that would [otherwise] not have them,” Koenig said. “In the last five years the school has grown dramatically, and the kids, the school and the teachers have enjoyed amazing successes.”
The Heritage Academy was founded in 2004. Attendance grew from 32 to 450 students in just two years, and the Schoerke Foundation grants scholarships to children that require an extra challenge to meet their intellectual needs.
Education provided at Heritage Academy is also meant to prepare students for the high school test that determines whether their education will continue. Heritage Academy has had an one hundred percent pass rate for the past two years.