Students headed to Africa

By Greg Gelpi

Africa will become more than mere words on pages and pictures on television screens for two North Clayton High School students.

North Clayton High juniors Jasmine Aisha Sykes and O'Shae Alonzo Ross were selected to participate in a cultural exchange based on their essays on the topic "Why I want to visit motherland Africa," grades and school conduct.

The trip to Africa will be the first for both, and, in fact, the first time out of the country for Ross.

"I've barely escaped Georgia," Ross said, mentioning that he has left the state one time to visit California.

It will be the second time out of the country for Sykes.

"It's so far," she said. "I didn't think I would ever go."

The cultural exchange, though, is more than just a summer trip for the two. Sykes and Ross will participate in Youth Leadership for Global Health and will attend the International Black Youth Summit. After the summit, they will visit sites in Accra and Kumasi, including health facilities and weaving and carving communities. The trip will also include a visit to a slave castle, where Africans were shipped to America aboard slave ships.

They will be part of a tour group led by Wilma Kirchhofer of Youth Leadership for Global Health.

Sykes said she will study medicine after she graduates from North Clayton High. The experience of visiting the medical facilities will give her a glimpse into medical treatment in other parts of the world.

The youths leave for Ghana Aug. 3 and will return Aug. 17.

"I think I'll be more culturally aware," Ross said of what he hopes to take back from Africa.

Mike Okeke, founder and president of African Treasures, said he judged the essays based on both grammar and content, looking for the students' passion for Africa and reasons for wanting to go.

"To hear about (Africa) is one thing, but to see it, touch it and feel it is another," Okeke said.

The contest was open to juniors at North Clayton High School, and the best male and female students were selected.

Ross and Sykes will share their experiences in Africa when they return from their exchange on the African Treasures weekly television show. The show airs at 4 p.m. Tuesdays on www.AfricanTreasuresTV.com or Comcast Cable Channel 5.