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French club aids African schools

FARMER’S KORNER – Summit High School French Honor Society treasurer Ray Zakahi had good news to report to the French Club Thursday: The club will be able to send $250 to Senegal this year and another $250 to Haiti.

Since French teacher Kathy Swanson traveled to West Africa three years ago, her students have been raising money to support schools in less-developed, French-speaking countries. In 1999, Swanson joined a group of French teachers on a National Endowment for the Humanities grant to study literature in Senegal. The people of Thiaroye Azur touched Swanson.

“Their education isn’t free, so someone has to come up with the tuition,” Swanson said. “They try to encourage education any way they can. Education is very important to the Senegalese, and our students try to support that.”



Last year, Swanson sent the city’s schools a check for $500. Just before classes began this September, she received a thank you letter and a packet of photos showing students receiving academic awards paid for through Summit’s donation.

“They were able to give their top students pencils, notebook and other things,” Swanson said. “It doesn’t seem like much to us, but they don’t have even these simple things at times.”



Swanson’s French Club and the school’s French honor society raise the money chiefly through a Valentine’s Day fund-raiser. Students make chocolate truffles at home and sell them to high school sweethearts. In addition to getting students active in school, the fund-raising opens their eyes to a different part of the world, Swanson said.

“It’s nice for kids to have a connection with somewhere else in the world, and not just France,” she said.

On the wall behind Zakahi during his treasury report, students could see a display of the pictures sent from Thiaroye Azur. Zakahi, who used to practice his French with Senegalese immigrants in Summit County while working at Burger King, said it’s easy to see the good their effort does.

Junior Lorna Bremner was surprised how much the group could help.

“It’s amazing – we’re just giving them little things, really, but it means so much,” she said.

The club members said they’re looking forward to putting more checks in the mail and completing another round of truffle-selling this year. “It’s good to give,” honor society secretary Julie Wallace said.

A Senegalese immigrant living in Summit County, who did not want to be identified, said education is important in his native country, and economic conditions and the cost of school often drive fathers to seek work here. He said efforts such as those of the high school club have a dramatic effect on Senegalese children.

“If they have a good connection, they can do a good thing,” he said.

Reid Williams can be reached at (970) 668-3998 ext. 237 or rwilliams@summitdaily.com.


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