Richton Park, IL-(ENEWSPF)- Ashley Jackson and Nneka Onyeka, two Southland College Prep Charter High School class of 2014 alumni, shared enriching and invigorating experiences this summer—hundreds of miles apart on the African continent.
Jackson, of Matteson, a junior at Grinnell College where she is pursuing a sociology degree on a $110,000 merit-based scholarship, is on an international study semester at the University of Cape Town, South Africa. There she’s learning first hand about the diverse, multicultural and racial heritage of the country.
Onyeka, of Richton Park, a junior at Northwestern University where she is majoring in economics on a $ 198,000 merit-based scholarship, combined her interest in global leadership and sustainable development to earn an internship at the Kakira Outgrowers Rural Development, a nonprofit organization in the east African city of Jinja, Uganda.
Jackson, who is experiencing the challenges of winter in Cape Town, is scheduled to return to her Iowa campus in early November after a six- month stint at the very tip of the African continent.
Before her classes began, Jackson said that she spent time “walking hand and trunk with elephants, feeding ostriches and watching the sun set over beautiful South African mountain tops. “
A sociology major, Jackson is enrolled in classes focused on race, class and gender from a South African perspective.
“Most of my professors are black so they are able to raise awareness about the issues black South Africans and all Africans face. I’ve had many insightful conversations with professors and students and have made many friends here,” she says.
When she returns to Grinnell in the fall, Jackson will begin work as a Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellow, an initiative of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation designed to increase diversity in the faculty ranks of institutions of higher learning.
Jackson was awarded the grant to conduct a two-year undergraduate research project and to prepare for graduate school.
Her research project, she says, “will focus on the Black Panther Liberation Schools in California during the civil rights movement. “
In the course of her project, Jackson says that she plans, “to interview students and teachers at Stanford University and the University of California Berkeley and spend time in university archives to uncover original source data about the civil rights movement. “
The Mellon Mays Fellowship honors Dr. Benjamin Mays, a distinguished black educator who served as President of Morehouse College during the civil rights era. The program has produced more than 500 Ph.Ds, many of whom have become university faculty members in institutions around the world.
Jackson says that she plans to enroll in graduate school, earn a doctorate degree and become a tenured professor doing research at a liberal arts institution.
Onyeka, the Salutatorian of her Southland College Prep class, who was offered $350,000 in merit-based scholarships from three universities, is pursuing a degree at Northwestern University. Her long term goal is in the field of international development policy.
She also hopes someday to work in her family’s village in Nigeria, their country of origin.
“During my internship with KORD in Jinja, Uganda, I collaborated with three other international interns to develop a sustainable project for a local savings and loan group and a primary school that resulted in a win/win for both organizations, “ she explained.
“While this was a collaboration project for a small community in Uganda, it was what that community did for me that will remain with me forever,” Onyeka says.
“My host Uganda family showed me what true hospitality is and what it means to love a stranger.
“I learned to focus on what truly matters. I recognized the importance of language and how speaking a very little can speak to one’s heart. At first, I was uncertain but then I saw it as an opportunity rather than a threat. But most importantly, I become confident in myself and my capabilities, “she said.
“To listen to the stories of these two young women, Southland College Prep graduates, who traveled across the globe to advance their education and gain confidence in their judgment and actions, is most inspiring. Ashley and Nneka are fine representatives of Southland’s spirit that there are no barriers to growth, learning and service,” said Dr. Blondean Davis, Southland’s CEO.
“Our pledge to these and to all of Southland’s graduates is that we will prepare you for the 21st century world in which you will live the rest of your lives by providing the foundation that a true learning community offers and to offer a continuing network of support,” Dr. Davis said.
Submitted from Southland College Prep Charter High School. Revised copy supplied and published Sept. 17, 2016.