By Leesa K. Bartu
No wi-fi, no air conditioning, no pools . . . but plenty of mosquitos might not make for a teenager’s ideal summer but for Jacy Schlueter, it was life changing. Schlueter, who will be a Fillmore Central senior in August, saw an ad on Instagram for the Global Leadership Adventures program and applied for a scholarship.
She and her parents had thought she would go on a music tour in Europe this summer but this program allowed Schlueter to choose her destination.
The GLA program brings students together at their final destination instead of forming groups in the states. Schlueter traveled alone to Chicago before meeting another (younger) participant in Chicago and they headed to Ghana via Newark, N.J., and London.
The biggest challenge on the trip was multiple flight delays forcing Schlueter to rearrange her own flight schedule in international airports. Not only was this her first time to experience this, she had broken her foot 10 days before she left so her mobility was limited.
Despite all the challenges, Schlueter had an experience that will impact the rest of her life. “It changed my perspective. I have a different outlook on cultures now. It made me want to work with kids and help people in the future.
“I knew I wanted to go into a medical field but now I am thinking about working with kids and travelling with kids and doing more mission work in the future.”
Her group in Ghana included 17 teens staying with their host family, but they had several mentors to guide them in their daily activities.
Each day they would teach the students English at the different schools. Schlueter went to a nursery school working with 2-3 year olds. “We taught them Simon Says, the alphabet and colors. They already knew how to count to 100.”
In the evenings the group would go to the park and teach the kids who gathered how to play different games or sports. After time at the park, their GLA group would gather for leadership talks and session.
According to Schlueter, their goal is to “be a better you, for your school, community, family. Strive to be the best and do what you can for others. They stressed positivity.”
When she got to Ghana, Schlueter noticed the differences right away. “The houses were nice but didn’t have AC – there were screens on every window. The roads were all dirt; goats, dogs and cats wandered around in the streets; and the kids were barefoot and wandering around by themselves.
“Their windows and doors were always open. They had little shops in front of their house selling fruits, vegetables and beads. Everyone smiled. They don’t see a lot of Americans.”
She also noticed the difference between teens in the US and Ghana. “They were very serious for the most part. They had a lot of chores, getting their younger siblings ready for school. Their main focus was on school as they all want to go to America and go to college. “
Another discrepancy that surprised Schlueter was the lack of emphasis on material things. “It was amazing to me. It really opened my eyes about materialistic things and their emphasis on building relationships.”
Schlueter was a little shocked at the corporal punishment even the two- and three -year-olds were subject to. At the nursery school where she volunteered the teachers disciplined with a stick and this bothered her. “The kids were used to it. That was different for me. They caned the kids, they were beaten at home. Not excessively but it was tough for me to understand and process. It’s a different culture. The kids took it and parents weren’t upset by it so I had to accept it.”