Photo Credit: Photo credit: ERIC MUFASA
NYC Students Travel to Senegal to Find Their Ancestral Roots
Imagine growing up Black in America and being able to visit Africa before you turn 18 years old. A group of students from New York City were able to have this magical experience that transformed their lives.
Through the school’s Global Citizens Program, students from the Bronx Preparatory High School were able to spend one week in Senegal, West Africa. The all-expense paid experience was designed to help mold the students into future leaders.
Less than 20 students were selected to attend the immersive expedition. The competitive selection process had over 400 applicants. After returning home, students described their time in Senegal as “life-changing” and impactful.
“They’re much more appreciative of their school, of being in the Bronx, of their own families,” Principal Cassius Gil told News 12 The Bronx.
Their time was spent engulfed in Senegalese culture; experiencing the language, food, and aura of the locals that live there. For many of them, it was their first time leaving the country. One student, Fouday Singhateh, described the trip as a homecoming and his first chance to visit the country where his ancestors were from.
“My background is Senegalese, and I never had a moment to go to Africa for the first time,” he said.
The students from the high-performing charter school visited numerous attractions, sites, and landmarks while in the West African country. One of the most transformative moments during the trip was tracing slave roots on Goree Island. At the Door Of No Return in Dakar, students were able to walk the same path many slaves walked before watching Africa fade away into the horizon forever.
“They got to a place called Goree Island, which is traditionally a launching point for slave ships that have then traveled west, and that’s always a poignant and emotional part of the trip for them,” Gil said.
CEO of Democracy Prep Public Schools, Natasha Trivers, fully supports the school’s Global Citizens Program. She believes that it’s difficult to convince future leaders they can change the world when they haven’t seen it.
“All young people, but especially those from historically underserved communities, should travel internationally because the world is literally theirs,” she said. “They need to sit in their power and know that they belong in any arena in any country they might find themselves in. They also need to connect with people from different countries, ethnicities, and cultural backgrounds so they can learn about these differences and show deep respect for these communities but also get grounded in our shared humanity.”
The students’ trip to Senegal will not be their last. The school is sending them to Maine this summer and overseas again in 2024.
“Test scores are great, strong discipline is great but what are you doing to feed the whole child and I think travel is a huge part of that,” George says.
Check out this video highlighting the students enriching experience under the Senegalese sun.