After delays from Liberia’s election, we decided to hold the commencement ceremony of our sixth cohort on Saturday, November 4, 2023. First, Thank student Pearl Clarke for decorating our center for the graduation.
Over the past year, we faced many challenges in recruiting and maintaining students for the 2022/2023 class. As we shared, many candidates decided to start temporary vocational training programs to garner votes from young people. Other students and staff members left to participate in the political process. While this is our third presidential election, this was the first that directly impacted our programming.
With that being said, this year’s commencement celebrated 20 graduates, our lowest turnout since we started. The size did not deter our team from giving them the best program to recognize their success. First, our academic students provide entertainment, such as dancing and singing songs. Next, Kelvin, two instructors–Augustus and Emmanuel, and a parent gave remarks congratulating and encouraging them as they started their career journey. Finally, each student received their diplomas.
We uploaded several videos from the ceremony to our YouTube Channel. Below is a list of videos and highlights of what they are about. When you play them on YouTube, you can read the description for more information. Also, we wanted to feature the grand march of the graduates.
We like to present the Uniting Distant Star 6th Cohort Graduates. They all received a diploma today in their respective trade course. This is their grand march to start the program. Congrats!
Graduation Entertain Featuring Phanlyn Angel Queedor – 11/4/23. Phanlyn Angel Queedor, 10th Grade Student, danced for the graduates.
Graduation Entertain Featuring Adea Zenkeapah – 11/4/23. Adea Zenkeapah, a 9th Grade Student, sang to the graduates. She is a newer UDS Academy Student.
Graduation Entertain Featuring Benetta Dahn – 11/4/23. Benetta Dahn. She is a 10th grader and will take one of our vocational training courses this year.
Augustus Appleton, UDS Satellite TV & Solar Installation Instructor -11/4/23. August talks about young women learning how to install solar., Then he encourages parents to have their students come to the school to learn a trade skill.
Emmanuel Duwah, UDS Cosmetology Instructor and Chelsea Fan For Life – 11/4/23.Emmanuel talks about one of his students, Janet Johnson, who also took an electrician course, climbing up poles.
UDS Vocational Training Parent Gives His Remarks During 6th Cohort Graduation – 11/4/23. He first thanked everyone and then talked about the importance of vocational training. He then stressed the importance of building a network. Finally, he ended with, “As you venture into the world of real work, I want you to go out there and shine and let the sky be luminous.”
We held our fifth Virtual Tea Time and enjoyed a wonderful conversation with two guests in Minnesota, twelve academic students, and one staff in Liberia. Our Virtual Tea Time allows people who cannot travel to and from Liberia to learn from each other and have fun. Please save the date for January 27, 2024, Virtual Tea Time.
As mentioned above, twelve students participated in this event. They were recently selected as vocational training scholarship recipients from two recent birthday fundraisers. They all struggle to meet their tuition needs, and many sell in the market to pay for schooling.
We started with introductions from the US to Liberia that included an icebreaker question, “What is your favorite thing to do?” We had two people who enjoyed walking, one playing games, two reading books, four working, two selling in the market, one singing, two like quizzing contests, one playing music, and two playing football.
Let’s introduce the students and staff from Liberia.
Konjay Mardeh, 10th Grade, Age 20
Louisezer A. Somah, 10th Grade, Age 17
Marthaline Yarpah, 8th Grade, Age 15
Favor B. Morwu, 9th Grade, Age 17
Elder J. Larmouth, 9th Grade, Age 17
Godgift M. Barrolle, 10th Grade, Age 18
Abigal Karbah, 10th Grade, Age 19
Rebecca M. Mulbah, 10th Grade, Age 20
Marayata B. Kamara, 8th Grade, Age 19
Matthew W. Geebeor, 8th Grade, Age 19
Benetta K. C. Dahn, 10th Grade, Age 20
Lawrence Tarr, 10th Grade, Age 18
Godfrey Solomon, Staff and Teacher
Kelvin Fomba, Co-Founder, Director & Teacher
What do you do before school, and do you have breakfast? The students said they take their baths and get ready, but no breakfast.
What is your goal after high school? One answered that she wanted to be an airline ticketing person, three girls said doctor, one girl said lawyer, one girl said international chef, one boy said military and another boy said a professional football player.
Do you look up at the stars? No, because of the city lights, and they are often busy with school, work such as selling in the market, and chores that they don’t get to look up.
Why did they like going to the UDS School? Some of the students responded that the teachers help them to learn reading and writing, public speaking, etc. Another said they teach not only lessons but also life. They liked how they guided them on the right path to better themselves. Also, the support they get when they struggling with school work or life’s stressors.
What did you do to earn a living? Both guests are retired but shared their various career paths that included computer programming in the 1960s, helping women learn non-traditional trades in vocational tech school, stacking books in the library, cleaning bathrooms in an office building, customer service, and working on university study, to name a few.
How old were you when you graduated high school? Both were 17, and one graduated in 1956 and the other in 1969. If you look at the ages of the students above, you will see they will all graduate in their early 20s.
What high school did you graduate from? Patrick Henry in Minneapolis and St. Louis Park, both in Minnesota.
In our setting now, we are fighting for our society to be bright. In bright in the sense that is education. Education is the only thing that can make change happen for us on this end. In which UDS make it necessary to be a blessing. So I much appreciate all those people out there; I really appreciate it a lot.
Would you like to meet with one of our students or instructor? Our next Virtual Team Time is October 28, from 10 AM to 11 AM CST. This event will be worth every minute because you can talk with our youth and instructors and ask them questions. We do a roundtable Q&A session, where our Star Champions (Monthly Donors) start each round. Then, we leave time for the youth to ask you questions.
Please reserve your virtual seat for $10 unless you are a Star Champion who has donated $40 or more in a quarter, and your seat is free. Read the Star Champion benefits later in this newsletter.
On Thursday, October 12, we partnered with We SparkleFounder Michelle Tran Maryns and (Im)possible CosmosFounder/Flight Director Nyemadi Dunbar for the UDS Youth Entrepreneurship Workshop. This event was our official reboot of virtual youth exchanges. Our last one was in 2017 with a Minneapolis-based youth group, youthrive.
They both talked about entrepreneurship and provided tips for our young people to consider when starting or growing their businesses. Also, Michelle showed how her company, We Sparkle, provides free mobile tools to build their business site. She shared examples of sites created by Junior Achievement youth in junior and senior high, who she’s helped develop their entrepreneurship skills.
Before concluding the workshop, Michelle assigned them homework to talk with people about their problems. This brought me back to when we launched Uniting Distant Stars in Liberia in 2013. We held a two-day Youth Leadership Workshop on Creative and Innovative Thinking. During this workshop, we focused on solving a problem and identifying what resources they had to help them with this quest. So, I added to their homework to start looking at what resources they could use to solve the problem and support their business.
Thanks to Kelvin Fomba, Myrtle S Toe, and Mohammed Gbettu for organizing the event in Liberia!