When 16 students from the Baltimore School for the Arts first touched down in Accra, Ghana a couple of weeks ago, their first impression was it was hot.
But then they began to take in the sights and sounds of the city.
“We all noticed just how nice everyone was and how warm and ready to embrace us they were,” said Marley Ford, a senior at the BSA.
The school started planning this trip about a year and a half ago, said school director Dr. Chris Ford, when they began a school-wide program learning about Africa. With the help of a grant, they selected 16 kids through essays and interviews to take on a 10-day trip to Ghana.
“I'd like them to have a sense of what the 1.1 billion people in Africa are doing, how they make their way, what's important to them and how they function as human beings,” Ford said.
During their trip, the students met craftsmen, tribe leaders and teachers. They danced with school children, weaved baskets and learned to play the drums.
Marley Ford says one of her favorite moments was spending time at the school.
“You could tell how much they appreciated their education,” she said. “I think we all walked away from that feeling that we wanted to do more of that when we got back here and not take what we do for granted and not take how much we love our art for granted.”
They not only discovered what makes Ghana so unique, they also found similarities to the city they call home.
“You see the same kind of drive you see in Baltimore, of people trying to move up in the world and work hard to change their situation,” said Aazam Yaqoob, a sophomore at the BSA.
“I think it was sort of refreshing to see that there are some parts of the human experience that are universal and you'll see them everywhere,” he said.
“It was a warm-hearted feeling that all these students embraced the experience,” said Laura Cunningham, the arts manager who helped plan the trip. “Their identities have been bolstered and I think that’s an important experience for any young person. They learn more about themselves and the world that they live in.”
In March, students will present what they’ve learned about Africa during this year-long program. The kids who went on the Ghana trip will be sharing their experiences too. The presentations are open to the public.