Tuesday, July 7, 2009

“STARS” by Tammi; 07 July 2009

STARS 2009

We might not have gotten off to the best start: First, the STARS students that Chris and I had invited (DASHS’s top students) didn’t show up in time for our school bus to take them to town. We did end up arriving at the conference together though. Upon which Chris and I gave our students a little pocket money and sent them out to find a snack. Twenty minutes later we learned there was a conference rule that no students are to leave the site without an escort. Whoops…

Thankfully everyone showed up prepared for the opening event (and on time) and we were off to a good start after a

Our four shining STARS

It was an active week for us middle-aged curmudgeons. Our daily schedule went from breakfast at 7 am to lights out at 10 pm. Then I slept in the girls’ dorm and Chris in the boys’. Each day was filled with a host of activities:

Monday-Youth Leadership Day

Tuesday-HIV/AIDS Education Day

Wednesday-Careers Day

Thursday-Tertiary Education Day

Friday-Guest Speaker Day

We had small and large group discussions, Ghanaian guest speakers, role playing, counseling, and an assortment of leadership and team building activities. The students got to tour the college campus and visit the computer lab. We also had nightly events including debate, drama, movies, a talent show, music and dancing.

There were 60 STARS students in attendance representing every region in Ghana. For nearly all of the student participants, this conference was a first time experience in many ways: first time to travel outside of their home area, first time to visit a big city complete with multi-story buildings, first time to see a college campus, first time to mix with such a large diverse group of other top students, and most importantly first time to be heard and respected by their adult supervisors.

So how did it all go?

On the last day Chris and I sat down with our four students to summarize the week. We were impressed by the list of clubs and events they plan to implement at our own school: How to plan and study, HIV/AIDS peer education, Leadership seminars, goal setting workshop, workshop on how to develop your potential, and a weekly posting on food for thought.

To assist students with taking ideas and lessons learned back to their individual schools, we were provided with a kit of materials (including a bag of condoms and a wooden penis). Next school year will most certainly be an interesting one.

Chris reports that the highlight of the week for him was pretending to poke students in the eye. Ok, before you jump to any conclusions you must first know that Chris served as the “Activities Man”. He was the guy in charge of organizing those fun, goofy, team-building activities. One of those included blindfolding most of the participants. To make sure there was no cheating, he and some of the other organizers went around to each blindfolded person acting as if they were about to poke, punch, etc. The tactic proved quite affective. It was of great amusement to those who could see and with the way the instructors carried on, nobody with an insufficient blindfold could possibly keep from cracking up at their “threatening” antics.

It's all fun and games...

His other highlight was the last night when people wore the traditional dress of their area to the closing dinner and dance. He says “I was absolutely blown away by the beauty and diversity of the dress. This is in a country smaller that the state of Oregon. I find one of the most profound things I will take home from this entire PC experience is how amazing and inspiring diversity really is”.

For me, the highlight was a break-out session with a group of girls on HIV/AIDS day. This was their opportunity to ask candid questions in a safe environment. And ask they did. It was a positive, productive session. My only regret is that it seemed to end too soon. The off-shoots of that discussion could have kept us busy for weeks. (Periodically throughout the event a voice was popping into my head. It said “Is this really me doing this”? Who would have thought?)!

At the close of the event, our STARS said they wished they could stay. They also eagerly volunteered to return next year as Junior Group Leaders.

Its moments like these that make it all worth it

Yes, we’d say that the event was a success. Thanks to all of you who helped make it possible. And for those who did not get a chance to contribute this year…next year will be here before you know it!

For more about STARS visit http://starsconference.blogspot.com/

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