Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Thank You

An event like the STARS Conference does not come together over night, and it doesn’t happen without the efforts and contributions of many, many people. Although the conference is organized by Peace Corps Volunteers, who provide the “sweat equity” to plan and execute the project, it has always been supported by generous donations of money, in-kind items, and, most importantly, the time and energy of our distinguished guest speakers. Without this support, the conference would be neither possible nor meaningful for our students.

Although we will be sending personal thank-you notes to all of our Ghanaian sponsors, supporters, guest speakers, and donors, we would also like to offer this thank you to everyone who helped in any way with the conference, especially our friends and families in the states who supported the project.

A popular colloquialism in Ghana is “the tree that stands alone falls in the storm.” Thank you, one and all, for standing with us as we brought this experience to our students.

- Miss Kim, Peace Corps Volunteer Teacher and STARS Conference Planning Team Member

Friday, June 26, 2009

Letters from the Students

I am very appreciative of this conference. I would like to say thank you and God bless you.

It is very interesting because being here is something that I will never forget. I learned about what a person can do to avoid being infected with sexually transmitted diseases like HIV/AIDS, gonnorhea, and syphillis, to mention a few.

I was very happy to attend this conference because I learned a lot about my future. I was able to learn how to set my goals, work towards them and achieve them. Also there are certain things we haven't done before like leadership exercises and playing team-building games.

Finally, I enjoyed the conference because I have made a lot of friends. I hope that this continues next year. I'm very, very happy and I say congratulations to all of you.

- Fauzia, Kumbugu Senior High School, Northern Region

It's been a very great week. First of all, I would like to extend my sincere thanks to all the Peace Corps Volunteers and sponsors that made this conference a reality.

The first time I was told about the STARS Conference, I was trying to imagine how it was going to be. But when we got here, I realized it was something completely different. I have never had such great people to speak to me on issues concerning leadership, HIV/AIDS, tertiary education, and so on. I have gained a lot of knowledge and I have also met many different people from many different schools all over Ghana.

It's been a great experience, and I thank the Peace Corps Volunteers a lot for making it possible.

- Joshua, St. Ignatius of Loyola Senior High School, Upper East Region

Wow, Peace Corps Volunteers!

I was not very excited at first when my school's headmaster and Peace Corps Volunteers nominated me for the STARS Conference at KNUST, because I had no idea what it would be like.

But, when I came, my attitude changed. The education I have received through this conference has changed my life.

First and foremost, I have learned skills to become an effective leader. For example, as a leader I need to first know my weaknesses and strengths before I can make good decisions.

Also, I have learned how to make good decisions about my health and my body. We learned about HIV/AIDS and how to prevent it, how to be supportive of people living with HIV/AIDS, and how to have healthy, constructive relationships with other people.

In closing, I would like to make a challenge to you that this conference could be of benefit to all the students of Ghana. I hope that by next year, you have the opportunity to invite every student in Ghana.

Nicholas, Bibiani Senior High School, Ashanti Region

Thursday, June 25, 2009

A Student's Perspective

STARS CONFERENCE has been very exciting. The first day at the conference was fun. The day I arrived I met a lot of people from different places and different schools. Honestly, I had not heard the names of schools before but the conference allowed me to know more schools. I met people with different cultures and with different beliefs. It was just fun

The first day, we lodged in our assigned dormitories after going through the formalities. I was put in the same room with students from the Brong-Ahafo region, the Northern region and the Upper East region, if I’m correct. To be frank, I always thought that they were weird people but upon understanding their cultures and beliefs, I don’t see them that way again. After dinner, which was very fine, we were allowed to retire to bed. Boys will always be boys, you know. We did chat a lot before realizing that day had finished – we fell asleep without knowing it.

Monday, June 22 2009
The second day at STARS, we woke up very early. I hurried through the morning routine – brushing, bathing, dressing, everything. 7 o’clock was breakfast time. We had oats with milk and bread for breakfast. It was DELICIOUS. After eating, we had an interesting activity. We played the HUMAN KNOT game.

After the HUMAN KNOT game, we had a guest speaker, Mr. Kofi Quao from Barclay's Bank. Surprisingly, the speaker was an old boy from my school. His talk was on leadership and was very interesting and educative. Then there were snacks for everyone which was also very fine. We then made for the conference facility on the campus where we had some leadership scenarios. There was another talk by Prof. Daniel Ohene-Adu. Every group was again assigned to another activity – brainstorming on the qualities of a good leader. That too was very educative.

Another group activity again and we left the conference facility for our dormitory. We had time to prepare for our drama. After dinner, we had our plays acted at 7pm. I acted as the bad teacher who claimed to have been trained in Liverpool. Maybe I’ll be trained there someday but maybe not as a teacher.

Monday was very exhilarating. I made a lot of friends – both boys and girls. Honestly, before the conference I had a bit of a problem mingling with other people I just met but it been easier this time. Thumbs up, STARS CONFERENCE!!!

Tuesday, June 23 2009
I overslept. But thank God I was not late. Breakfast was very enjoyable. The day was HIV/AIDS day. Our first two speakers were Omar Seidu Sanda, the Young and Wise Director, Upper East Region, and PCV Allison Terry. They took us through the facts and myths about the dreadful disease that is HIV/AIDS and Ghana and the HIV/AIDS epidemic. We had snacks at 10.30. At 11.00, a woman who was looking so energetic and healthy but was having HIV came to recount her experience and the consequences of her ignorance by the time she contracted the disease.

After we had taken lunch, we made for the conference centre again and it was all about assertiveness and saying no, values and value voting, sexuality and gender issues. Dinner was at 6. I had not eaten ‘waakye’ in the evening before but the conference afforded me the opportunity to do it for the first time. On the schedule was Movie time. During the movies I sat with one of the girls and talked a lot with her – I really liked it.

- Isaac, St. Peter's Senior High School, Eastern Region

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

A Journey Worth Taking

The opportunity to bring two of my students to the STARS Conference has been exciting and rewarding for both me and my students. I teach Science at Sirigu SHS, a small rural high school in northern Ghana. When I first announced the conference to my form 2 students, many of them were interested, but I only received two application letters. The letters were sincere and excited and from two of my best students, both of them prefects at the school. I chose Alfred and Grace to go the conference began to prepare and plan for the event.

I was at least as excited as my students were about going to Kumasi and spending a week learning about leadership and interacting with students from all over Ghana. I knew I would get the chance to see volunteers that I hadn’t seen in months. For the students, it really was an adventure into the unknown. Neither had traveled much before, and we were going to cover almost ¾ of the country before we arrived at our destination: Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology. We passed the 9 hour bus ride talking about the conference and charting our course by each roadsign we passed. Finally arriving tired and hungry at our massive dormitory and conference hall, we enjoyed a meal, met our friends new and old, and retired to bed.

Throughout the conference, I have watched my students get to know new friends, learn and teach, lead and share with the others here. It makes me so proud of my students when I see them blossoming into successful leaders and people. This conference has given them so many opportunities and they have taken advantage of them and learned so much. I am very happy to be able to bring my students to STARS, and I am excited to see how they will use the skills and knowledge they have learned when we return to our school.

- Toby Koy, Peace Corps Volunteer, Sirigu Senior High School

The Toils and Rewards of STARS

During Peace Corps training, one of the things we learned about was the yearly STARS conference at KNUST. As wonderful as the conference sounded at the time, it took me nearly a year of teaching here to see just how beneficial the conference would be to the outstanding students of Ghana.

I am a teacher at Kwaebibirem Model Junior High School in the Eastern Region, and every day I work with a number of exceptional students who, in the right environment, could go very far in life. In my opinion, the STARS Conference provides one of the best environments for the top students of Ghana: they are traveling outside of their area, sometimes for the first time, to meet and interact with student just like themselves, while at the same time participating in a variety of sessions ranging from career choices to HIV/AIDS in Ghana. At STARS, students can meet powerful role models, talk through real issues Ghanaians face every day, discuss gender equality and empowerment, and use computers with internet access.

What is particularly important is the fact that these students get the chance to partake in one of the most memorable and positive experiences of their lives, then share what they have experienced with their classmates when they return to school. They also take with them contact information of the new friends they made from all parts of Ghana.

When this year’s STARS team was being put together, I signed on to help with fund raising and media coverage. Initially, I was interested in learning more about the corporate world of Ghana and making connections along the way. Also, as a teacher in Ghana it is sometimes frustrating to work so hard without seeing immediate results; in working with STARS, I hoped to get some instant gratification by working with companies and seeing it come together in the end. As the months went by, and I got deeper and deeper into playing my role for STARS, I began to see just how important it was to get Ghanaian sponsorship. I realized that Ghanaian support would send a strong message to the students and speakers attending that Ghanaian companies cared about promoting the education of Ghanaian youth.

I believe in the STARS conference, and wanted to help make it the best one yet, even if it meant going back and forth from Accra and spending several hours working with companies. The pay-off, to me, would be helping to reward those students who are hard working, intelligent, and creative to take part in one of the best experiences of their lives.

- Darren Fleischer, Peace Corps Volunteer, Kwaebibirem Modern JHS

Why I Brought My Kids to STARS

Even though I have only seen the results from the first two days of STARS, I can already point out the positive effects. My students (usually very quiet and shy in an almost oppressive way) have been slowly opening up and giving their opinions. Just the fact alone that they aren’t being yelled at and shot down for having an opinion is doing wonders. They are encouraged to think critically about real issues. STARS is helping these students to be great role models for their young generation. They will influence others, who will in turn influence more people. In short, STARS has the potential to change Ghana for the better, in helping it to really “move forward”.

I first brought my students to STARS for these very reasons, and more. I wanted to fill them with a kind of positive, non-dictatorial confidence. They need to be given the small nudge in the right direction towards being an intelligent leader. I also wanted my students to see a completely different part of Ghana (they are from the Upper West) with a different culture and language. Think of it as a real-life social studies class. They get to meet, interact, and hopefully become friends with students all around Ghana. This true to life experience is one in a million for these kids, some of which have never gone outside of their villages and have little or no money. They will remember STARS forever.

-Stephanie Langham, Peace Corps Volunteer, Piina Senior High School

Monday, June 9, 2008

The Sky is the Limit

My name is Lordia Aseye Alowodo. I participated in the 2007 STAR Conference and am a junior group leader in 2008. Each year it gets bigger.

STARS Conference helps students to know more about each other and their schools, share ideas and meet students from different parts of the country. It helps students to develop their talents.

The Peace Corps volunteers are doing great things to change the lives of people in many sectors especially educational and HIV/AIDS awareness.

The section I like most about this conference is hearing from speakers sharing their life experiences and the challenges most of them face. You've got to tell yourself "I can do it in life." It is true that no matter where you are or who you are, you can make it. Let the sky be our limit.

The greatest thanks goes to God also to my PCV Jenifer Ley and my parents.

It is great to have a baby but the greatest person is the successful man.

-Lordia Alowodo, Junior Group Leader, Owerriman Senior High School