Meet Dara Denney!
Greetings Expo Followers!
It’s Dara, reporting from Kumasi! I landed in Ghana in January, and I’m really excited about working with Exponential Education and to be in West Africa. It’s been quite a ride to get to this point, and I’m feeling great about starting this journey on a new continent, with an awesome support team here in the field (and in the States!).
I was born in Ohio and spent my adolescence in a small town where the population never broke 500 people. When I was 18 I moved to New York City under the guise of pursuing higher education. I attended The City College of New York where I (finally!) graduated with my BA in English this past December.
While living in New York I volunteered for New York Cares and I was on the Advocacy Council for Planned Parenthood of New York City. I was an English tutor and conversation partner, and I also worked on projects helping to prepare Hispanic immigrants to take the United States Citizenship exam. I was in PPNYC’s Sex Education group, where I helped to prepare workshops and disperse safer-sex to the public. I loved being able to serve my city in several different ways because I got to connect with so many people on the local level. I felt like I really got to know my fellow New Yorkers despite all the differences that stood between us, which created a space for mutual learning and understanding.
After travelling to northern India in the summer of 2013 to study, I was overwhelmed with the same feeling of oneness with the people there too. I found that even amidst cultural, language, and socio-economic barriers, there was still a place for genuine connection and compassion. This realization, combined with my natural curiosity for the seemingly strange and foreign, propelled my fascination into the complex world of international aid and development.
I spent many months arranging (and rearranging) my plans for after graduation, but joining Expo here in Ghana was actually a relatively last minute decision! It just goes to show that you can’t plan everything to death, even when it comes to one’s career. I took a leap of faith and came to Ghana because I was intrigued by a continent that I know nearly nothing about.
As an Exponential Education Program Associate I am setting up a tutoring program in Ejisu (a suburb of Kumasi), that targets low performing junior high students to help prepare them for the BECE, an exam that they must pass to get into high school. Right now, only about 40% of all junior high students in Ghana pass this exam, and far fewer than that actually go to high school because they cannot afford the large tuition fees. My program will take 5 SHS students and have each of them teach and tutor 5 junior high school students. We will be offering small stipends to the SHS students to help offset their tuition costs, and will be selecting the best performing tutor for a full scholarship for that year. The junior high students also benefit because they are able to go over material that will be on the BECE. They receive more individualized attention in the target areas of English language and Mathematics.
Additionally I will also be working as an SAT tutor in select high schools across Kumasi, as a college advisor, and really, whatever else Expo asks of me! I’m so proud to be about of Expo and I’m so excited to be in Ghana, to be learning Twi (the local language), and to be getting to know my neighbors and my students! I’ll be dropping by the blog every now and again to say “Hello”, but until then… “Ye-bish-shia”!