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Naperville students raise money to build school in Ghana

Source: Daily Herald
All it took was the announcement of a Naperville middle school’s quest to raise $25,000 to build a school in Ghana for the connections to start pouring in.

First a sixth-grade boy’s mom tells the principal she worked as a Peace Corps volunteer teaching math in Ghana. Then she says the boy’s father is from the west African nation. Then an eighth-grader’s mother contacts the principal to let him know she grew up in Ghana as well.

These connections — along with the creativity and dedication of students — make Crone Middle School Principal Allan Davenport confident the school can meet its goal before the end of this academic year.

Another reason for confidence? The school already has raised $3,270.

“The goal is to see how the kids could take this and grow it on their own,” Davenport said about the fundraiser, which is being conducted through the international organization Pencils of Promise. “I’ve encouraged the parents to let the kids think of their own ideas.”

Brainstorming could be starting in earnest now that seventh-grade students heard from one of the parents with the best connection to Ghana, former Peace Corps volunteer LaVonne Senanou of Plainfield.

Senanou taught math at a boarding school in Ghana from 1989 to 1991, and she told students Tuesday that the country is in a bit of a school building boom.

Many classrooms in older schools are “very rudimentary,” she said, but new ones are being built as the country grows under democratic leadership.

“One of the ways countries develop is through education,” Senanou said. “So what we’re doing is helping them on their path of development, and it’s always appreciated. It’s a great thing that we’re trying to do at Crone.”

Senanou, whose sixth-grade son, Matthew, is a Crone student, likened Ghanaian education to the schools in the “Harry Potter” books, where students live on campus and are divided into houses. She said Ghana is trying to move away from the boarding school system so education can be cheaper for families. In some areas of the country, inability to pay school fees can prevent kids from attending.

“There are parts of Ghana that have and have not,” Davenport said. “We’re focusing on a region that is a have not.”

Davenport proposed the Ghana school fundraiser after reading the book “The Promise of a Pencil: How an Ordinary Person Can Create Extraordinary Change” by Adam Braun.

The principal was moved by the book’s story of a “for-purpose” organization started when the author asked a boy begging for money on the streets of India what he wanted most in the world, and the boy said, “a pencil,” so he could use it to write and learn.

“They don’t have the chances that we have here, so I wanted to be a part of giving them that chance,” said student Maya Knotts of Naperville, a 13-year-old who already has asked her friends and her father’s friends to contribute to the cause. “It’s amazing to help kids around the world in Africa.”

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