Sally Leonard reflects on her 3 months volunteering with ASA as a progression tutor

ASA is a pre-university for gifted young females- except it isn’t. It is so much more.

 

The opportunities these young women are given are both inspirational and unique
– just the fact that they are given opportunities to learn practically, teach their peers and voice their opinion is a novelty for some. But these are just the basics – the Speaker Series runs within the weekly Careers sessions, inviting inspirational women (and men) from different fields to share their journeys and bestow their advice to the students. These seminars prove invaluable as months later the girls can still be heard stating ‘When X came she told us…..’. Other unique and awe-inspiring opportunities the students experienced within their very first half term at ASA are: a visit to the opening ceremony of Ghana’s first radio telescope, where they also met the President; taking part in the ‘Future Leaders Symposium’, with the tag-line ‘Nurturing Africa’s Leader of Tomorrow’, where they were given the opportunity to network with and receive mentoring from a host of outstanding individuals in their respective fields of work, and being filmed for the CNN documentary series ‘Inside Africa’.

 

The work of the African Gifted charity is unique and  invaluable for these students. Many derive from low-income families and for them to be able to come to ASA and solely focus on their studies and passion is so amazing. It is so important that gifted (female) students are not limited by their financial circumstances, but are enabled and encouraged to fulfil their true potential and follow their dream – and that’s exactly what ASA provides.
Whilst Maths and Physics is the focus here, other subjects are not neglected as the school understands the importance of ensuring these young individuals become well-rounded students and gather skills and knowledge in a range of areas: Sports, Robotics, Drama, Yoga, Art, to name a few. Their social and collaborative skills are also developed further through: weekly house assemblies; Sunday assemblies (based on a PSHCE theme) and common room meetings. Volunteers are also invited to provide other clubs and extra-curricular activities in an area of their interest or talent.
 
What the staff do here is truly amazing and any one of the twenty three students would testify to this. All staff, and volunteers, work tirelessly to ensure all scholars are catered for (meals included!) – they often work over-time to provide further advice and guidance, for: exams; university applications; assessment days. They are all approachable and place the students at the heart of everything they do, to describe ASA as ‘a home from home’ would not be an exaggeration. Volunteers are invited to share their opinion and give feedback, however long they have been working at the school and irrespective of their field of work/level of experience. All views are valid and appreciated, ensuring that volunteers feel like long-standing members of staff.
I volunteered at ASA for three months, and as I am from a primary education background I wondered how useful I would be. But it turns out I was pretty useful! I came to ASA with the aim of sharing my expertise and ‘help out’ where I could, but to be honest the experience turned out to be a lot more than just that. I was inspired; I wanted to be transported back twenty years and be a part of this cohort of intelligent, inquisitive and compassionate young women. They just suck you in! I have absolutely no idea what they were talking about in Maths, but just to witness them study so hard; demonstrate such enthusiasm and dedication  – you could virtually see their brains ticking! – I couldn’t help but feel in awe. They have a strong, welcoming presence and will always greet you with warm smiles and ‘Hello Auntie!’. They are forever grateful for the support you offer them and are always willing to listen intently to the advice given to them.
Whilst I was a little nervous about living in an unknown continent, all my worries vanished as soon as I arrived and was warmly greeted by the staff. The boarding is very comfortable, and all the meals are adequate and delicious. The stipend is more than adequate and all staff are very understanding to the fact that we can all become home-sick at times and will lend a helping hand (or shoulder to cry on!) when needed. You won’t just leave with colleagues, but with friends.
I absolutely encourage you to devote a mere three months of your life to volunteering at ASA. You will believe you are supporting a group of young women to achieve their dreams, but in actuality they will encourage you to dream bigger, work harder and take more risks, without even realising it.
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Everyone at ASA would like to express their sincere gratitude to Sally for all her hard work and passion for ASA. If you too are interested in becoming a progression tutor, then find out more by emailing Helen Denyer on helen.denyer@africangifted.org