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ACLP Beyond the Classroom

By: Amy Xiang

ACLP students have had the chance to go on five career- and college-related trips so far. Learn about some of the fun places we’ve visited!

Blackwell Library — every Friday during the Fall 2017 semester

ACLP held its weekly sessions at Blackwell Library, where students had the chance to work in a positive learning environment on their group projects about African countries: Sudan, South Sudan, Senegal, and Mali.

Seventh grader Mageed especially looked forward to these trips, saying, “I think [ACLP] is a great way to communicate with students of African backgrounds and teach them about the English language and about America. It’s a really fun program that teaches you a lot of stuff that would help you in school. It helps you bring your grades up. I would recommend this program.”

With support from volunteers, teammates, books, computers, and other resources, students were able to conduct research and prepare presentations that they shared with everyone during ACLP’s African Celebration at the end of the semester. What an amazing way to share their cultural pride with the community!

Students and a volunteer show off their project about Mali during ACLP’s African Celebration.

NBC10 News Philadelphia Station — April 20, 2018

At the NBC10 station, ACLP students went on a guided tour by reporter Manuel McDonnell Smith where they learned about newsrooms and the importance of news reporting.

Students even received an inspiring video message from then-NBC10 reporter Aundrea Cline-Thomas, whose parents immigrated to America from Sierra Leone: “You can do whatever you want to do; whatever is in your heart, whatever is in your gut, you can absolutely do it. It doesn’t matter if you were born here, if you were not born here; if you have an accent, if you don’t have an accent. Hard work certainly pays off. Don’t try to get rid of your culture — it’s beautiful, it’s necessary, it sets you apart.”

The NBC10 trip increased students’ understanding about careers in journalism, both in front of the cameras and behind the scenes, and also reaffirmed the idea that they, too, can work in a newsroom and tell important stories about individuals and communities.

ACLP students and board members visit the Philadelphia NBC10 station, which provides local and national news to the greater Philly community.

Penn’s Van Pelt Library — March 13, 2019

On this special field trip, students enjoyed touring Van Pelt Library, playing problem-solving electromechanical games, and even attending a presentation about centuries-old preserved manuscripts from the African continent. This trip showed students that so much knowledge within Africa dates back several thousands of years. Students also learned a bit about the university and were encouraged to add Penn to their college lists.

A library staff member shows ACLP students and staff how to play an educational game.

Philadelphia City Hall — March 27, 2019

At Philadelphia City Hall, students met with Mayor Jim Kenney in his office and discussed topics such as their transition to the U.S., culture-related bullying as well as the need for more English language support, culturally responsive curriculums, and safe school buildings.

Abass, a third grader at Lea Elementary, said to the mayor, “Can you knock down the whole school? Our school is dirty.” In response, the mayor directed his staff to look into those unsanitary issues.

After students shared their experiences being bullied because of their African background, the mayor asked founder Aminata Sy, “Why do they pick on Africans?” Aminata responded that a general lack of knowledge combined with widespread stereotypes about the continent are mostly to blame. Mayor Kenney added, “I support a curriculum that is understandable and meets the cultural needs of kids and their parents.”

ACLP students and volunteers gather around a large table with Mayor Jim Kenney in his office.

Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell led ACLP students on a special tour of her office and other key places in the building such as the City Council Chamber. Ninth grader Dieynaba was inspired by the councilwoman and said, “I want to work here.”

The City Hall trip exposed our students to a place where powerful people make powerful decisions about Philadelphia and their lives. This trip allowed students to see that places of power and decision-making are for them, too.

Councilwoman Blackwell takes a group photo after taking ACLP on a tour of City Hall.

Penn’s Perelman School of Medicine — December 4, 2019

At the Perelman School of Medicine, ACLP students learned about the medical field from Black medical students, who described their career paths and motivations in addition to answering questions about medicine.

Faith, a medical student, offered the following advice: “Surround yourself with people who are supportive of you to help you be the best version of yourself.”

ACLP students were encouraged to ask lots of questions as they rotated between stations to learn about ultrasounds, basic anatomy, and physical exams. Students were in awe of the sophisticated medical equipment and even received their own doctors’ white coats and stethoscopes!

Reflecting on this trip, then ACLP Program Director and medical student Daniel Akuma said, “I wish I had an ACLP to help nurture my own goals when I was their age. But this is the beauty of paying it forward. When we climb, we send the ladder back down so that others do not have to figure it out all over again by themselves.”

ACLP students were able to expand their horizons and view medicine as a potential future career through learning from people who share the same African ancestry and have similar immigrant experiences as them.

ACLP students learn how to use a stethoscope as medical students look on.

AMY XIANG is the writer for African Community Learning Program and a sophomore at the University of Pennsylvania, where she also writes for The Daily Pennsylvanian and 34th Street Magazine. To support African Community Learning Program’s work, please email

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