Siasa summer school

Photo courtsey Maria Grazia Montagnari/flickr

Photo courtsey Maria Grazia Montagnari/flickr

Catie Byrne
Features Editor

Throughout the summer, Siasa, UNCG’s Pan African Coalition, established a seven week learning program with the intent of teaching specialized education not typically taught to young black children in public school systems.

Former and current Siasa members, Adreanna Carter, Tyrelle Lee, Shanquel Spellman and Andrea Picou, worked alongside these children and agreed to share their experiences and inspiration behind the project.

The program ran from June 22 to Aug. 7 and was hosted on the third floor of a church youth building near East Bessemer Avenue. The educational environment included three large rooms: a classroom with a projector, a game room and an arts and crafts room.

The program offered breakfast, lunch and snacks throughout the day, retained 11 to 40 children and ran, “Five days week, [from] 7:30 in the morning to 6:00 p.m. at night,” said Picou.

In regards to the inspiration behind cultivating the project, organizers said that young African American students need to know more about their history than is taught to them in a traditional education setting.

Education offered by the program includes but aren’t limited to: individual subject tutoring, math, African American literature and history, psychology, writing, economics, poetry and discussion of current events effecting black people in America. Activities were also offered such as field trips to the African history museum at A&T, and multiple trips to a splash park.

Of his issues with traditional public school education, Spellman said, “We’ve been conditioned through our curriculum to associate the concept of intelligence to whiteness. All the accomplished people we learn about in school are white.”

Organizers stressed that programs such as theirs intend to immerse black children with education that emphasizes that their value does not need a comparison point.

“We don’t get any kind of education that is good for black students,” said Picou, citing a lack of information taught about black history not involving slavery. It is critical that young people understand where they come from… you don’t know that your history is whole entire societies and kingdoms; that your people were merchants, were kings, were queens, were sailors, were traders, were priests, were doctors [and] were lawyers,” said Picou.

Carter noted that African-centered education is currently on the rise in America, and that studies have shown that black children are thriving in these environments.

“From experience, at our camp, there was one student, who was 10 or 11-years-old, who was dyslexic, and he couldn’t write straight at all. And after a few weeks of classes, at the end of the camp, he wrote a love letter to one of the girls and the lines were perfectly straight,” said Carter.

Picou described that she had similarly positive experiences tutoring three young home-schooled children, “Two to three times a week in the library, I’d bring a math worksheet, reading for their grammar and spelling… the oldest boy, he’s doing polynomials. They contacted us to keep tutoring their children, they appreciate it so much.”

The program is new, but coordinators hope to expand the program to be an after school program. Eventually, their goal is to establish a private school with an African-centered education.

Coordinators maintained that the program is not a non-profit; the standard fee starting at about $150 a month. However, the learning program payment plan is flexible in nature, as to assist parents who are only able to pay as they can, and for those who have issues paying the monthly fee, prices can lower based on need.

“We didn’t do this to make money, we did this to help out children,” said Picou. Program organizers describe the project as a way to educate young black children that facilitates growth, development and self-pride.

Categories: Community, Features, Investigative

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