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High schoolers connect with peers from Mississippi and Nigeria

Digital Harbor students participated in Global Citizen Exchange this Spring

Five students from Digital Harbor High School found meaningful connections halfway across the country and halfway around the world over the last year as part of the Global Citizen Exchange Program.

The program, made possible by funding from the Hewlett Packard Foundation, was a partnership between Baltimore City Public Schools, Jackson (Miss.) Public Schools, and Prudence City College in Lagos, Nigeria. Throughout the last academic year, students from Baltimore, Jackson, and Lagos met virtually every other week, sharing their culture and their experiences with advocacy, politics, arts, and career readiness. And this past spring, they met in person: first when Jackson students came to Baltimore, then during a visit to Jackson in April, and finally with both groups of students traveling to Lagos and Abuja, Nigeria in June.

Students pose on trip to NigeriaOn their week-long visits in Jackson and Baltimore, the students had a private meeting with the Mayors of each city, explored popular arts and cultural attractions, and tasted favorite local food. They visited HBCU colleges in each city, met youth leaders and with representatives from the NAACP, and even attended local school board meetings. In the process, students examined the structural issues that face both cities and how they compare. 

“This was truly a once in a lifetime experience for our students,” said Tenne’ Thrower, City Schools’ Community Schools Specialist, who joined them on the trips. “Their excitement as they met and explored similarities and differences in their lives and perspectives was palpable. This kind of experiential learning can be so powerful.” Fela Kuti statue

Jayla Pfifer, 11th grader at Digital Harbor High School, particularly enjoyed visiting Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). “It was really a nice experience. They showed and explained how HBCUs are communal. It makes me feel at home and comfortable. It inspired me to want to go to an HBCU college.”

During their nine-day trip to Nigeria, the students immersed themselves in arts and culture; they saw live music, visited the Fela Kuti New Afrika Shrine, purchased artwork from local artists, and freestyled and improvised music with Nigerians in the community! They visited beaches, tried new foods, and explored the areas around them. 

Through it all, students found connection. They found students in Nigeria also focused on police reform, concerned with access to free healthcare, and passionate about using their voices for change. They visited schools emphasizing STEM education and entrepreneurship. And they discussed systemic racism in the United States and explored how it differs in Nigeria. They saw two cities - Baltimore and Lagos - with its share of challenges but also with its share of beauty.

Isaiah McGriggs, a 12th grader from Jim Hill High School in Jackson, summarized the feeling of the group at the end of the trips. “This program taught us how to interact with people not just from different countries or cities, but even in real life, how to communicate and learn more from others each and every day.”

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