BA student creates after-school tutoring program on African heritage

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Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Aminata Sy, a native of Senegal, is a current international relations major and English minor in the Bachelor of Arts program at the College of Liberal and Professional Studies. She also speaks five languages (Pulaar, Wolof, French, English and Spanish) works as a freelance journalist, raises three children and recently got to work on launching an after-school program for young people of African descent called the African Community Learning Program. When thinking about the many facets of her life, she adds, “I love education, and I love to give back, it’s part of who I am.”

Aminata received support for the project from her husband, professors in the International Relations Program, advisors in LPS and the Perry World House, where she was a student fellow last year. Her coursework and research interests often focus on diplomacy, identity and culture, so her vision for this program was a combination of her academic and personal life.

“My neighborhood has a lot of families from African countries, and I notice that the children often push that cultural side of themselves away,” she shares, “I hope that our program will not only support students of African roots academically, but also allow them to clearly see the value of their cultural heritage and to realize that they, like me, can overcome significant barriers and achieve remarkable goals in their lives.”

BA student creates after-school tutoring program on African heritage

Starting in the fall of 2017, Aminata is running the African Community Learning Program for free for elementary and middle school students in West Philadelphia. On Mondays through Thursdays, Aminata and volunteers from Penn will tutor students with their homework, in addition to helping them with language skills, reading and writing. On Fridays, the group will meet at the Lucien E. Blackwell West Philadelphia Regional Library for their “Africa Projects.” She explains, “Each volunteer will be paired with students from a shared country, and they will work together on a project that represents one element of their homeland—literature, politics, fashion, whatever it is that interests them. I want them to tap into that.” So far interested students and parents represent Senegal, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Sudan, Mali, Ivory Coast and Mauritania.

Aminata points out that she hopes volunteers come from a variety of backgrounds. “Tutors don’t need to be from Africa to participate. They have the opportunity to learn another way of life, another perspective, through children,” she continues, “I want to leave a message for Penn students and prospective volunteers, I believe that in giving, we always get something in return. Joining the African Community Learning Program is not only a great opportunity to get experience teaching and working with children, but it is also one way to know that every single day, you will touch someone’s life. These kids are part of this city, this country, and sometimes all it takes is one kid to make a big difference in the world.”

In October 2017, Aminata was awarded a Journalism Scholarship by the Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists.

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