By Kris Boimah Garjay (YES 2015-2016, Liberia, placed by AFS in Humboldt, CA)
My participation in the YES program gave me a broad base of knowledge, sense of human connection, and the values of community service. From my volunteer experience in the U.S. while on program, I have become involved in community service and other initiatives back home in Liberia to impact my community and the country at large.
I decided to apply for a YES Alumni Grant to help address some of the educational issues faced by students in my country. To get into university, students in Liberia must pass the West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE). It is a notoriously difficult exam, and many students find it difficult or impossible to enroll in university due to low scores, particularly when it comes to English. My project, PEN WELL, aimed to address this issue with an English tutoring program.
PEN WELL, which stands for Professional English Networking Will Enhance Learning in Liberia, was held in Bopolu City for 60 primary and secondary school students. The five-day program trained students in academic English writing, including for speeches and creative writing; reading comprehension; public speaking and presentation skills; test taking strategies, particularly for the WASSCE; and leadership skills through interactive activities to engage different learning styles.
Student feedback was overwhelmingly positive, with many noting they greatly benefited from the program and felt more confident in skill areas that they previously felt were challenging.
One student shared, “I can now stand before an audience of people and speak confidently with the skills I’ve gained in public speaking. Before, I thought only important or special people could stand up and speak in public. But now, I know that I, too, can do the same.”
I intend for this to be only the first edition of this project, with more to come. My long-term hope is to create a talented pool of writers, readers, and future leaders among this new generation of students. English and a proper education will be essential to handle the issues facing our country now and in the future.
Many thanks to the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) for sponsoring the YES Program and for sponsoring this project through the YES Alumni Grant opportunity. Many thanks to my placement organization AFS, iEARN-Liberia, Global Transformers-Liberia, and American Councils for International Education. I also want to thank the Bopolu education authorities and the Gbarpolu County Student Union for their support. And a big thanks to our project team, especially Korvah M. Fromayan, for all the hard work that went into the smooth implementation and helping me overcome challenges along the way.
Korvah M. Fromayan (YES 2015-2016, Liberia, placed by CIEE in West Townshend, VT)