University of Colorado business student Shaun Elley is heading back to Boulder today with an internship already lined up for the fall.
Last fall, Elley’s Critical Leadership Skills class worked with nonprofit African Einstein Initiative, which aids education in Ghana.
After taking a special interest in the mission, Elley, who will be a senior this year, remained in touch with the organization’s founders and agreed to accompany the donations overseas.
So for the past two weeks, he has been handing out school supplies and soccer gear to students in Ghana.
“I really wanted to come see it for myself,” he said. “It’s been amazing, a mix of helping out and a lot of culture too.”
This fall, the business marketing major, will continue working with the project from Boulder, and possibly after graduation.
“Before I was just wondering, I’m not sure what I wanted to do after graduation,” Elley said. “I’m still not sure exactly what I’m going to do, but I have a direction now.”
The class, offered by Professor James LoPresti through the Leeds School of Business, began cooperating with the nonprofit in the fall of 2009 when Kaesi Solomon, CU alumnus, chose AEI for his service project.
Solomon, now a project manager for AEI, heard about the organization through his mom, who makes donations to orphanages in Ghana.
LoPresti kept in touch with the AEI founders after Solomon graduated, often giving students a chance to work directly with the organization for their semester-long service project.
Elley is the first business student to travel to Africa and work directly with the co-founders.
Haydee Ayi-Bonte, co-founder of AEI and a middle school science teacher in Boulder, became interested in education in Ghana after spending a month there in 2007, immersed in an African dance program.
Haydee Ayi-Bonte met her husband, Anas Ayi-Bonte, in Ghana and began traveling between Africa and the United States frequently.
“I did a lot of observing and was very concerned with science and math education there,” she said. “I noticed some things missing from these kids’ education and began talking to my husband about what we could do.”
In 2009, the African Einstein Initiative was born.
“I had listened to a man who made a statement that the potential for the next Einstein was in Africa,” Haydee Ayi-Bonte said, “but they need help and resources to help develop those kids or their potential would be lost.
“That man, a professor from Cambridge, founded several colleges in the area to help support these students. So I thought, ‘We need to start earlier to provide a stream of students for these schools.'”
The couple has been collecting school supplies and exercise equipment donations for years, she said.
Anas Ayi-Bonte, who was raised in Ghana, said it is a “soccer community.” By donating soccer equipment to the schools, he is hoping to encourage an after-school activity.
“We want them playing at the schools instead of in the streets,” he said. “It’s safer for them … and many of the families don’t have money to buy the soccer balls.”
Local companies including Boulder Running Company and Boulder Self Storage have donated to AEI.
Along with continued donations, AEI is focusing on building a prototype Technical Resource Center, which would provide schools with a space to focus on science, technology, engineering and mathematics education.
The addition will include room for textbooks, computers and laboratory equipment. AEI is hoping to expand these resource centers to schools across Africa.