This time of year has long been my favorite because of our annual GEC board retreat. In non-Covid times we would spend a long weekend together at my parents’ home and work and rejoice in one another’s company. It is a time of personal grounding, of friendship, of family, and of lots of hard work. Even if we could not gather in person this year- it felt that we were in one space- our special space. From Ghana to Kenya, to California to Louisiana, and so many places in between- we came together with the common bond of wanting to support our amazing young scholars and their families. Our Zoom time ended and I cried yet they were tears of appreciation. Of gratitude. You see, my best friend, London, and I had a wild idea in our young 20’s that we would create and operate a nonprofit and an NGO – on a different continent, while both still working as full-time educators. Inspired by our experiences in the classroom, traveling abroad to Ghana, and through our work with organizations like America Achieves and Teach for America we knew that we wanted to be lifelong advocates for educational equity both in the US and aboard. In truth, we were young and naive when we started GEC. We had to learn, unlearn and relearn mindsets and skillsets. We dove in head first learning how to run and operate nonprofits nationally and internationally and honestly we did not always get it right. We did however have a steadfast belief that we could always do better and that our students and families deserved our best. We were, (and are), committed to always improving our organization and be responsive to the needs of our students, families, and schools.
So here we are- over 11 years later. I think my post-board call tears flowed for more than one reason. My heart breaks every day from the injustices continuing to occur in our country: racism, inequities inherently derived from systems of oppression, political divisiveness …. Ohhh… the list goes on and on. After all we suffered in 2020, heading into 2021 it still seems that at times the world is truly a dumpster fire. But not today. Not for the hours I just spent with my brain trust of amazing board members. Over the course of our online “retreat”, we tackled conversations on the inherent bias in our work, reflected on the past year, and planned for the year ahead. This retreat was different- I am different. I am now the mother of a young male- and I consequently see the world through a parental lens whereas before it was solely through that of an educator… I think I feel just as our GEC parents feel- – I want the best for our children, I want quality educational opportunities for our children and I want the best we can offer our children in this world.
I watched in awe today as our young leaders rose to leadership in our organization. From our Program Manager, Derrick, in Ghana ( an alumnus of the program and a current graduate student), to William (our eldest alumni and now GEC board member who is a research assistant at Harvard), to Megan (our now Secretary of the GEC who joined us as a youth board member and is a senior in college), they each stepped into their individual leadership roles. As they did, I watched myself be able to step back. What I saw unfolding was the vision London and I had all along- to pass along our dream of a community focused on education equity to the youth members themselves.
During our call, we also reviewed our fundraising and I reflected on the unwavering amount of gratitude I have for our donors who have supported us each step of the way. We have operated solely on friends and family donations for 11 years. With each student who was able to attend school, with each family that received basic supplies during COVID-19, I see my family and friends in the background making this all possible. With all this in mind, I want to announce that this year we are focusing on the people who make GEC possible by launching a “Thankful Thursday Campaign”. Every Thursday in 2021 we will highlight our students, families, schools, educators, board members, and donors who make-up the GEC Family. We want to recognize the individual efforts that have allowed us to build our community and create opportunities for those who need it most. To those that helped us along this journey, I want to say: ‘ woaboa me pa ara, medaase (Twi). You have helped me a lot and thank you. (English)”