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10 Significant Accomplishments of African Community Learning Program in 2018

African Community Learning Program work under the theme "My Name."

Running a new organization is a daunting task, as one can never imagine just how much work lies ahead. On October 9, 2017, I started African Community Learning Program with many people’s support. Our work moves very fast, leaving little time for reflection. As 2018 comes to an end, I am looking back on African Community Learning Program’s significant accomplishments. African Community Learning is an educational nonprofit organization after-school program empowering people of African background. We teach 1-8 grade students in West Philadelphia an African-centered curriculum with a focus on reading, comprehension, writing, and speaking and help them with homework. We have served a total 22 students since opening our door.

These are 10 significant accomplishments of African Community Learning Program in 2018!

African Community Learning Program students, volunteers, and parents during our second annual Africa Celebration at the Blackwell Library on Sunday, December 16, 2018.

1. Ran successful semesters: During our spring and fall 2018 semesters, we have had students connected to seven African countries: Senegal, Mauritania, Mali, Sudan, Nigeria, Burkina Faso, and Niger. Some of our students have been new arrivals to America, and some were born and raised on the country. Even with our limited means, we have been able meet students where they are linguistically, educationally, and personalty wise to support them in advancing in their academics. Many students went from not speaking English to communicating, reading, writing, and comprehending the language and our texts as well as presenting to our class. Our students’ understanding of the African continent and its people have improved, from distinguishing among countries, to strengthening cultural pride and confidence, to appreciating people of African background’s contributions and diversity in general. Two of our students, Raimat and Dieynaba, graduated from 8th grade but decided to stay with us. Raimat wrote heartwarming "thank you" letter to us, and I shared Dieynaba's story in The Philadelphia Inquirer.

I am reading to Dieynaba the book Anna Hisbiscus' Song by Atinuke in November 2018.

2. Mobilized a strong community of supporters: We started African Community Learning in my family home’s basement and have temporary moved at the Blackwell Library in October 2018. The Blackwell Library has supported us since the beginning with many resources, including books. Many people at the University of Pennsylvania have helped make our work possible: volunteers, the Van Pelt Library, Wharton Entrepreneurship, the School of Social Policy and Practice, and more. We secured the support of top Philadelphia city official, such officials Mayor Kenney, who told me, "I think it's extremely important, especially for immigrant children, to not lose their identity or if they're American born to understand what their history is, their real history."Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell visited African Community Learning Program in November 2018 and said, "Culture is wonderful and important and exciting."

Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell (center) visited to African Community Learning Program on Tuesday, November 13, 2018. From left right Dahirou, Abdoul Wane, Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell , Ibra, and Aminata Sy.

3. Became a nonprofit organization: African Community Learning Program became a nonprofit organization in the state of Pennsylvania on April 2018. This is about six month after we started. This accomplishment shows that we are committed for the long term to educating and empowering young people in our city and beyond.

Aissata (right) and I are standing with African Community Learning Program's "My Name" group project in October 2018 at Blackwell Library.

4. Toured the NBC 10 news station: We toured the Philadelphia NBC 10 station on April 2018. We saw many places, like control rooms of station and a live broadcasting. NBC 10 staffers talked to our students about the importance of storytelling and the processes that take place behind the scenes to bring stories on television and online. Aundrea Cline-Thomas, then NBC 10 reporter and whose family is from Sierra Leone, sent our students a video message of encouragement. “You can do whatever you want to do...Don’t try to get rid of your culture; It’s beautiful, it’s necessary.”

African Community Learning Program visit to Philadelphia NBC 10 on Friday, April 20, 2018.

5. Selected as 2018 Wharton Startup Challenge Finalist: We went through a rigorous application process for the 2018 Wharton Startup Challenge competition, and African Community Learning Program was selected among the 27 semifinalists. We pitched our work in front judges at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business during a day-long showcase competition. Many supporters came to vote for us. We were selected as a 2018 Social Impact Finalist.

Hazim Hardeman (far left) and I (center) pitched African Community Learning Program's work at the Wharton School of Business on Friday, April 27, 2018. Some volunteers and supporters joined us.

6. Launched our #500EmpoweringAfricanStories Project: In May 2018, I launched the #500EmpoweringAfricanStories Project to create a library of stories that align with African Community Program’s mission of educating and empowering our students and community. Since then, we have written and published 16 stories and received 26 book donations from our recommendation list. We are continuing to produce content both for #500EmpoweringAfricanStories and for other aspects of our curriculum. Some people we have featured, such as David Adjaye, the lead architect of Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, and literary activist Marley Dias, have reacted to our stories on Twitter.

I am at the University of Pennsylvania with a book donation for our organization from A Book A Day program on Thursday, May 31, 2018.

7. Attracted a solid team of leaders: Since starting, we have had a strong team of leaders. Our vice president and my husband Abdoul Wane has been a leader in the Philadelphia African community for years. He has contributed in many aspects of our work, such as renovating our initial location (the basement), providing transportation to students, and advising me. Hazim Hardeman was hands-on secretary throughout his time with African Community Learning Program, from handling volunteer communications and contributing in our students’ academics, to writing many stories for our #500EmpoweringAfricanStories. We have been cheerleaders of Hazim’s well-deserved Rhodes Scholarship honor. Daniel Akuma has been a devoted volunteer since our launch, recruiting volunteers at Penn Medical School and tutoring our students. Daniel has taken on additional tasks as an intern since the fall of 2018 handing volunteer communications, among other responsibilities. Our current secretaries Similoluwa Ayinde and Wilnaphekie Taloute have contributed in multiple areas, such as tutoring our students, helping increase our social media presence, and producing videos. Similoluwa and Wilnaphekie have done much behind-the-scenes work to keep our projects organized and executed in a timely manner.

We are at African Community Learning Program's second Africa Celebration on December 16 2018. From left to right Daniel Akuma, Wilnaphekie Taloute, Aminata Sy (me), Similoluwa Ayinde.

8. Won the Charles B. Rangel Fellowship: I was selected as a 2019 Rangle International Graduate Fellow on Wednesday, November 14, 2018. The fellowship will help pay for my graduate studies, intern in Congress and at an American embassy overseas, and join the U.S. Foreign Service to become a diplomat. The Rangel Fellowship also offers mentorship for a Foreign Service career. I will start my fellowship with a congressional internship on May 21, 2019 and plan to start a graduate school in fall 2019. I shared this achievement with African Community Learning Program's students and briefly explained the work of a political diplomat, the track in which I am interested.

I am at U.S. Department of State Annex in Washington, D.C. on the day of my interview as Rangel Fellow Finalist on Thursday, November 8, 2018.

9. Featured in many news outlets: In 2018, various news outlets publicized our work with African Community Learning Program. They are: The Philadelphia Tribune, The Daily Pennsylvanian, Penn Today, 34th Street Magazine, WURD’s Radio Xalaat, Philly CAM, WHYY, The Notebook, and The Philadelphia Inquirer. In February 2018, WHYY and The Notebook reporters covered our students presenting on their black historical figures from our list of 23 individuals.

I am at The Philadelphia Tribune office in Center City Philadelphia with a copy of a published story on African Community Learning Program.

10. Celebrated our second annual Africa Celebration: Students, volunteers, parents, and supporters attended our Africa Celebration on Sunday, December 16, 2018 at the Blackwell Library. We enjoyed our student and volunteer presentations, showcased our students’ individual and group works on display boards. We ate a variety of African dishes, including yassa and chicken, cassava leaves sauce with lamb, brochettes, and plantains and then washed down the foods with some sweet homemade bissab juice. Some even danced to Baaba Maal’s soulful music! The room was filled with laughter and joy. A volunteer told me, "This was a great study break. I am definitely coming back next semester." I asked a student to rate the celebration from 1 to 5. He said, "I give it a 5. It was fun!"

Our student and my son Ibra opens the 2018 Africa Celebration with African Community Learning Program's chant "Awareness" and later teaches it to the audience.

Aminata Sy is the founder and president of African Community Learning Program, a 2019 Rangle International Graduate Fellow, a multimedia journalist, and a senior at the University of Pennsylvania, where she studies international relations and English. She is also the founder, editor, and publisher of the #500EmpoweringAfricanStories Project.

To support African Community Learning Program visit:

Email Aminata Sy at

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