Making a Difference in South Africa

cprebil_1369271904_600Oglethorpe’s mission to “make a life, make a living, make a difference” affects not only its students, but also touches lives in the global community. Last fall, Oglethorpe extended its global reach, becoming the new academic partner of Global LEAD, a purpose driven summer study abroad program. And this summer, students from more than 30 universities nationwide traveled to Greece, Ecuador, and Cape Town, South Africa to experience Global LEAD’s unique combination of “Leadership, Education, Adventure and Diplomacy.”

Children in the Sir Lowry's township of Cape Town

Children in the Sir Lowry’s township of Cape Town

Oglethorpe’s Dr. Kendra Momon, associate professor of politics and director of the Rich Foundation Urban Leadership Program, led 81 students on their month-long journey through Cape Town, South Africa. She served as the academic director for the group, instructing two courses: “Leadership in Action” and “Global Citizenship & Engagement.”

What sets Global LEAD apart from other study abroad programs? The program combines academic curriculum with two weeks focused on service projects that expand upon the classroom learning. Living and serving in these underprivileged communities allows students to apply the principles they learn in classes and creates an immersive atmosphere that often transforms the lives of the students, as well as the members of the community they serve.

Oglethorpe’s objective to make a difference is enriched by the Global LEAD program. “There is no doubt that we (made a difference) in Cape Town this summer,” said Momon. “…Two weeks of the program, in rotation for the two student groups, are spent in local townships serving poor and disadvantaged children and teenagers.”

Dr. Momon and Janine in Cape Town.

The partnership opens up possibilities for Oglethorpe to spread the word about the school and its mission to create global citizens throughout the countries that Global LEAD serves, universities nationwide, and with the non-OU students who are exposed to the Oglethorpe curriculum and teaching. Students receive six Oglethorpe credit-hours while studying abroad with Global LEAD which are transferred to their home university. Oglethorpe’s dynamic faculty are the perfect ambassadors for Oglethorpe. Dr. Momon, who showed her love for OU through her apparel and anecdotes, told me a story about Janine, a 13-year-old South African girl whom she got to know during their two weeks of service. “Janine asked me to give her something to remember me so I gave her my beloved black OU fitted cap which I’ve had for five years.”

This year alone, Global LEAD and Oglethorpe will potentially change the lives of hundreds of students and people scattered around the globe. The partnership creates exciting possibilities for the future of Oglethorpe study abroad and global leadership opportunities.

Dr. Momon agrees. “I think the partnership is a great opportunity to extend our brand internationally as well as extend the scope of our motto to make a life, make a living, and make a difference.”

To keep up with the experiences of students and Oglethorpe traveling with Global LEAD, visit their blog, which is updated frequently.

Global LEAD Ecuador Beckons OU Students

More than 130 students from 30 universities are traveling to Ecuador, Greece and Cape Town, South Africa this summer with the official launch of Oglethorpe’s partnership with Global LEAD. Each will participate in Global LEAD‘s unique study abroad experience, which connects leadership, service-learning curriculum, adventure and local culture to help students better understand their role in a larger, global context.

Among the group heading to Ecuador later this week are Oglethorpe senior Bri Mongerson, a communications and rhetoric studies major, and junior Emmanuel Brantley, a business and Spanish major. Dr. Mario Chandler, associate professor of Spanish at Oglethorpe, is serving as academic director for the Ecuador program.

Dr. Chandler has an extensive background in study abroad trips, and will lead the academic curriculum for the group of 25 students in Ecuador. In addition to the core elements of leadership, service learning and personal development, Dr. Chandler will weave in Ecuadorian history and context into the class to further connect the curriculum with the host country.

Before they leave on their adventure, we asked Bri and Emmanuel to share how they were feeling.  Check out what they had to say below and in the video above…

Bri Mongerson

Bri Mongerson ’14

“I decided to go on Global LEAD after meeting (Global LEAD staff) Caro, Joanna, and Lauren at the study abroad fair at Georgia Tech,” said Bri. “When I met them, I had no idea that OU was going to partner with GL. Once I found that out, it made my decision that much more easier. I wanted to go to Ecuador for the different environment and culture. I am so excited to meet the people and learn more about their community. One thing that makes me nervous is the fact that I will be gone from my family and friends for five weeks but I know that this experience will be life changing!”

EB Photo 1

Emmanuel Brantley ’15

“The chance to stand on the equator, breathe the Amazonian air, tour the Galapagos Islands and mix with a distinct culture while exploring a new side of me in this capacity made Ecuador seem like it a once in a lifetime opportunity,” said Emmanuel. “However, I was hesitant to apply and not sure if I would want to go through with it. This would be my first experience abroad… After a conversation with my Spanish professor, Dr. Mario Chandler, I was completely sold on the idea of going to Ecuador. He reminded me that I would have my awesome Global LEAD family (how could I forget that?) and made me realize that sometimes it is okay when things do not go as originally planned and that I have to continue growing in my academic career… Today, I am most excited to visit some of the smaller towns in Ecuador like Tena and Otavalo. There I expect to gain a true feel of Ecuador’s hidden treasures.”

Find out more about study abroad opportunities through Global LEAD!

The Miracle League and OU Volunteers Score a Home Run

I recently had the chance to lead a group of eight Oglethorpe University volunteers at the North Metro Miracle League, where we provided assistance and motivation to special needs children and adults while playing the game of baseball.

As we arrived at Hobgood Park in Woodstock, Ga. on a rainy Saturday morning, we all hoped that the weather would cooperate long enough to play ball. With only a few drops of rain escaping the clouds, the games were on! First up were the little tikes. This game was played with children ranging from 6-10 years of age and the Oglethorpe volunteers were in charge of maintaining morale. During the second game for older participants, we paired up with the Miracle League players that needed assistance and we were able to provide individual attention and build relationships with them. Together with other community volunteers, we helped the players with their hitting and base running, and provided encouragement to these determined children and adults.

The service project with the North Metro Miracle League was more than just a project for me. It was a chance to revisit a type of project that renewed my passion for volunteering. During Oglethorpe’s Alternative Spring Break 2012 in Charleston, S.C., I volunteered with the Charleston Miracle League. This was special to me because I had volunteered with a similar organization throughout high school, and it was a great chance to dive back into something that I love doing. Volunteering with the North Metro Miracle League also gave us a chance to see Oglethorpe alumni in action. OU alumnus Robert Strozier ’86 founded NMML-Cherokee and now serves as coach for the team. I later found out that Mr. Strozier also had been a basketball coach at the high school I attended and where I played basketball. What a small world!

This service project gave students the opportunity to step outside of their comfort zone and make a difference in our community. A few of the student volunteers had never worked with special needs individuals, but said they would be ecstatic to do it again. I am thankful to have had the opportunity to coordinate and lead such a fun volunteer opportunity!

Clinton Global Initiative University Selects Four Oglethorpe Students to Attend 2013 Conference

Last year, Awet Woldegebriel ’14 was selected to be a presenter at the prestigious Clinton Global Initiative University (CGIU), founded by President Clinton to bring together students, youth organizations, topic experts, and celebrities to discuss and develop innovative solutions to pressing global challenges. Awet, an international studies major, was invited to attend CGIU again this year to discuss his nonprofit Knowledge Aid—this time accompanied by three more Oglethorpe students: Mon Baroi ’15, Jacob Tadych ’14, and Carolina Duque ’13, selected to attend based on their own impressive projects.

Mon, a politics major and nonprofit management minor, and Jacob, a business major, have been working on Oglethorpe’s Tiny Homes Project since September 2011, with the help of other members of the Oglethorpe community. “The mission of Oglethorpe’s Tiny Homes Project is to build a $400 home that is sustainable and environmentally-conscious on the campus of Oglethorpe in 2013,” explained Mon. “After we build the prototype, our first home, our plan is to raise $5,000 so that we can build five homes that are endorsed by the city of Atlanta for homeless or low-income individuals.”

Mon Baroi '15 and Jacob Tadych '14 happily at work on their project

The team plans to share their plans and research online, so that it may be improved upon and replicated around the world.

“I’m excited (to attend CGIU),” Jacob said. “I’m hoping we can get networks, get more people involved… plus we get to hear all the ideas from other people.”

One of those ideas is Carolina’s nonprofit, Mas Luz, which provides services and aid to help women in Colombia who have been physically and mentally abused.

“I’m looking forward to show everybody what we are doing in Colombia to help,” said Carolina, who is from Colombia and is studying business at Oglethorpe. “I wasn’t expecting (CGIU) to choose me. I am stunned.”

Carolina also hopes to network and to hear about other people’s projects. As Awet experienced last year, CGIU gives students the chance to grow their ideas and to make them a reality.

“The thing about (Tiny Homes) is that a lot of people think that it’s just about a house,” said Mon, “and the thing is, it’s not just about a house, it’s about a state of mind and a lifestyle. We’re advocates of a certain type of lifestyle, a lifestyle of lifelong learning.”

Congratulations, Carolina, Mon, Jacob and Awet—may your ideas continue to flourish!  Learn more about Oglethorpe’s business majors, politics major and nonprofit management minor.

Day of Service Celebrates Extraordinary Alumnus Fred Agel ’52

Mr. Fred Agel '52 (center) is surrounded by Day of Service volunteers, gathered in his honor.

Chances are that you’ve met Fred Agel ’52, a devoted alumnus, loving family member, and incredibly generous personhe is a member of Omicron Delta Kappa and the Board of Trustees, and you can often find him volunteering his free time in the library archives.  November 19th was a special day for Fred, who celebrated his 85th birthday with friends, family… and a big surprise.  To honor Fred and show how much they love and appreciate him, his entire family planned a Day of Service volunteer event with the OU community at Books for Africa.

“I hoped that we could find a way to work through OU since it has been, and continues to be, such an important part of my father’s life,”  said Laurie Agel Amerson, Fred’s daughter. ”I believe that my entire family has watched my father’s community service, and each and every one of us finds a way to be involved in our communities. He taught by example the importance of giving back, and three generations later, he is still teaching.”

The volunteer event on February 16th brought together more than 40 students, alumni, Center for Civic Engagement staff, and friends of Mr. Agel. Members of the newly established Thornwell Jacobs Society were especially excited to join in, as the project not only highlighted their goals of integrity, initiative, and perseverance, but took place during Thornwell Jacobs’ birthday weekend.

“Celebrating Fred Agel is celebrating Oglethorpe,” said Ruwa Romman ’15, historian of the Jacobs Society. President Antonio Mantica ’15 said with a smile that, if Fred were a sophomore, he would be a prime candidate for membership in the Society. 

In addition to the Day of Service, several departments have sent Fred thank you cards, and the baseball team (of which Fred is a former member) has given Fred a baseball, signed with all of the players’ names.

“This is a great way to celebrate his legacy,” said Heather Staniszewski ’02, assistant director of the Center for Civic Engagement, who helped plan the event. “It’s exciting to see family, alumni, and students working together in his honor.”

“The day was a huge success,” added Laurie.  “My dad spent a lot of time just looking at everybody working and sorting books with a big smile on his face.  The most wonderful thing for me was seeing all four generations of my family working side-by-side with OU students.”

If you would like to participate in future service projects, contact Heather Staniszewski.