Two individuals with diverse backgrounds have the same objective in mind: to create an organization in Ghana that will be the site of an eco-tourism campus. Goals include an organic farm, facilities for volunteers and a school for the children living in the village of Kpando.
"Our vision is to have a connection between the organization we build in Ghana and high schools in Syracuse," said Janine Nieroda, an English teacher and advisor at Fayetteville-Manlius High School.
Cazenovia College student and Ghana native Foli "Cha Cha" Augustine is Nieroda's inspiration and motivation behind the project. Augustine was the beneficiary of the tireless fundraising exploits of Meghan Stringer, a graduate of Hamilton College, to bring him to America for a college education.
"I was fortunate to see an article about Cha Cha posted in our faculty room and invited him to my class as a guest speaker," she said.
Since then, the pair has worked to pinpoint the needs of Kpando where Augustine owns about five acres of land and is known as an agricultural wizard.
"Essentially, he is the agricultural expert and I am the education expert," Nieroda said.
Nieroda has been an advisor for two community service organizations at F-M since she began teaching there three years ago. Her new club, "Ghana Bound," starts officially in the fall, and will focus on cultural studies and community service.
"The hope is that we will raise funds for the organization in Ghana," she said about the pilot program. "And we will be taking five of our members to Ghana [for one week] during the summer of 2009 to start building the school."
Students planning to travel to Ghana must fund their own trip, which typically costs around $2,000, said Nieroda, who plans to check out the village this summer with Augustine. Of any of the places she and her students could be going in Africa, she said this is "by far the most stable, the most welcoming, and safest place we could possibly be going."