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Exchange student inspires at Edmonds schools

Tinus Tuozie

Photo by Jake Watrous, Edmonds Beacon: Tinus gives a presentation to Meadowdale school staff on Nov. 9

This article was originally published in the Edmonds Beacon
 
Published on Thu, Jan 21, 2010 
by Sara Bruestle
 
Tinus Tuozie wants to inspire Americans to be global citizens. As an ambassador of Africa, he’s helping Americans to actively think about and engage with other nations of the world.
 
He’s only 17, but he’s taking his job very seriously.
 
Tuozie, an exchange student at Meadowdale High School, recently won an International Education Week competition for a presentation he gave on the West African nation Ghana.
 
Competition results were announced in December, but Tuozie, from Ghana, is far from finished with his IEW project.
 
“I think my nation needs my service, my continent needs me,” he said. “This is the time to educate others about [Ghana] and make Africa a place to be by the outside world.”
 
Since his initial presentation to Meadowdale staff on Nov. 9, Tuozie has given his presentation numerous times to students at Meadowdale and Maplewood Middle School.
 
“Some people out there think that Africa is just a nation,” he said. “They don’t even know that Africa is a continent and has different nations in it, so we do this to help them be connected, because the world is coming together.”
 
Tuozie is living with a host family in Lynnwood for a year and attending Meadowdale as a student in the AIFS/AFS Intercultural Exchange program.
 
Students in the program were asked to carry out a project that helps teach Americans about the world beyond their own country in celebration of International Education Week in November.
 
AIFS submitted the projects – captured in photos, video and letters of recommendation – to an IEW competition sponsored by the U.S. Department of State.
 
American Field Service is sponsored by the American Institute for Foreign Study foundation, which supports programs that send students abroad as ambassadors of their countries to build global awareness.
 
AFS is an international-exchange program that aims to grow intercultural understanding throughout the world.
 
“AIFS wants us, as intercultural exchange students, to educate Americans about our culture, our nation, and tell stories about our family, ourselves, and tell all our stories about everything, so they can be educated about Africa and our world,” Tuozie said.
 
For his project, Tuozie gave a PowerPoint presentation on the geography, history, flag, economy, government, culture, agriculture, tourism and languages of Ghana. He welcomed questions about Ghana and Africa.
 
Elizabeth Cano, an English teacher at Meadowdale, said she is thankful for the opportunity Tuozie gave students and staff in Edmonds schools to learn about Ghana.
 
“People should never pass up the opportunity to learn about other cultures, as it makes us more open-minded [and] empathetic at times,” she said. “And as a result [we] appreciate our own culture and surroundings more.
 
“Few people can afford to travel to foreign countries, so Tinus allows us to learn about Ghana in a unique way, not by book or film, but by a personal experience presented with pictures and emotion which transcends pages or video clips.”
 
As a competition winner, Tuozie will go to Baltimore in April to attend the Better Understanding for a Better World leadership conference. He’ll get to discuss leadership, education and global citizenship with students from 24 countries around the world, including Kazakhstan, Egypt and the United States.
 
“I am privileged to know him and work with him, as are the other students in our school,” said Jill Van Berkom, a photography teacher at Meadowdale. “I know that he will continue to be an amazing ambassador for the people of Ghana. [The] conference will give Tinus a chance to show others in the USA what an amazing and accomplished young man he is.”
 
All his life, Tuozie wanted to go abroad – not just for travel experience or to get an education – but to make a difference.
 
He’s keeping a list of everything Ghana needs to improve on, including humanitarian aid, education and communication.
 
In addition to his IEW project, Tuozie is creating a Web site where students from Meadowdale can connect with students from and his school in Ghana so they can share experiences as well as teaching and learning methods.
“Through this [online] school relationship, I’m hoping that students will get to experience a more connected world,” he said.
 
Tuozie said he admires President Barack Obama and his leadership as the first African-American president of the United States. It’s his wish to follow in Obama’s footsteps.
 
He has applied to several colleges across the United States, including Macalester College in Minnesota, Trinity University in Texas, George Washington University in Washington, D.C., and Yale University in Connecticut.
 
He plans to study law and political science so he can return to his nation as a leader and help other Ghanaians fight for the betterment of their country.
But for now, he’s happy to give his Ghana presentation to students and staff in the Edmonds School District.
 
Andy Streit, an English teacher at Meadowdale, asked Tuozie to share his presentation with his students because they were reading an African novel in class. Streit wanted to bring the story to life for his students with Tuozie’s stories, and it did.
 
“Tinus, I think, opens students’ eyes to the broader world,” he said. “Many of them don’t have the opportunity to travel outside of the United States, so I think the next best thing is [having] someone like Tinus, who is able to speak from his heart and share experiences, to help open up our eyes to all the differences we have here.”
 
Many students in Streit’s class asked Tuozie questions about his background and what it was like growing up in Ghana, West Africa.
Tuozie grew up in a farming town called Jirapa, in the Upper West Region of Ghana. The town, with a population of nearly 30,000, is about the size of Lynnwood.
 
Born in 1992, Tuozie spent most of his childhood living without a mom or dad. His parents divorced when he was two, so he and his four brothers were sent to live with his grandmother while his mom sold food at a nearby market to support the family.
 
His dad died in a car accident when he was 11, and soon after Tuozie and his brothers were sent to live with his uncle. Tuozie’s mom and uncle couldn’t afford to send him to boarding school when he finished primary school, so he helped his mom and uncle sell food at the market until they could pay for his tuition.
 
It was at the boarding school that Tuozie heard about the AIFS/AFS Intercultural Exchange program, for which he applied. After an exam, an interview, several vaccinations, a bus ride and two plane rides later, he finally arrived in Seattle for the “greatest year” of his life.
 
“It’s just amazing,” Tuozie said. “That’s a word I like to use a lot because everything in the United States is amazing. I’m having the best experience of my life.”
 
Copyright © 2010 by Beacon Publishing, Inc


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