UDS Academy – Primary School

UDS Academy – Primary School

UDS sees educating children and youth as an investment for the future. We started our work with academic scholarships and school supply drives in 2011. We later added a library and provided after-school study programs. So, starting a primary school serving 350 children in September 2018 fit into our programming.

The UDS Academy is not like other schools in the area because it was a community effort. Our team worked around the clock with the parents in preparing and implementing the plan. What sets this school apart from others?

  1. It is a tuition-free school for pre-K to 6th-grade students.
  2. The parents buy the uniforms directly from UDS (made by our staff and students) and the funds cover the operations costs and teachers pay.
  3. The UDS library contains all the materials that meet the nation’s curriculum. 
  4. The teachers are selected for their passion to impart knowledge in students and trained to adhere to our high-level learning standards. 
  5. The students are evaluated to determine if they could meet the grade level requirements and some are moved back a grade to ensure their success. 
Students & staff making the uniforms (left). New students on the first day of school.

Since most of the vocational training courses either have their own learning labs or meet in the afternoons or evenings, our center easily accommodates the academy. Plus, some of our vocational training students benefited from our academy because they could enroll their children. 

Furthermore, the parents showed their gratitude by donating three bundles of zinc roofing to help with our building extension and some offered their skills like carpentry to complete the work. 

Now as we move forward to June 29, the UDS Academy held their closing ceremony for the academic year. Also, students graduated from Kindergarten and 6th grades. Again, the parents were involved in the closing program and asked if the graduates could receive culture clothes made from a lappa (i.e. fabric) instead of a rented cap and gown. This made perfect sense because they paid a $20 graduation fee and a new outfit for their child is priceless. 

Kindergarten 2 in their graduation clothes (left) and 6th grade in theirs (right).

Your continued support empowered our Liberian Team and the community we serve a program for over 300 young children. Thank you for helping them make this happen!

UDS Academy Students saying their prayers & teachers at the closing program. 

School Supplies Drive, Final Stages!

…Less than 2 weeks left!


Right now, we are coming to the final stages of our “2016 School Supplies” campaign!

We are so very grateful! You’ve made it possible for 167 students to start the year off prepared with the materials they need, having raised a total of $1,675!

But, there are still 533 kids without funding for their supplies. Right now, we would like to review how you can still help us raise the final $5,330 of our $7,000 goal:
5
✩ Dimes for Dreams Cans: If you aren’t already, please keep filling up those cans! We will be collecting the cans closer to the end of this campaign. (Don’t know what “Dimes for Dreams” is? See the bottom of this email!)

✩ Facebook, Email, Text, Sing it from the Mountain-tops!: Please “share” about this campaign on your social media (here’s our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/unitingdistantstars), post our flyers (attached below) wherever you have access to, and use your gift of word of mouth!

✩ Make a Donation!: All donations are 100% tax-deductible! Please donate via PayPal (go to our website and click “donate” button) or send a Check payable to “Uniting Distant Stars” at:

Uniting Distant Stars
4010 Lawndale LN N
Plymouth, MN 55446

And prayers/good thoughts sent our way are of course always welcome and make all the difference, as well.

Thank you so much for all that you do. You truly are rock-stars!

Uniting Distant Stars

______________________________



Dimes for Dreams: https://unitingdistantstars.com/2016/03/uniting-distant-stars-dime-for-dreams.html

Do you have a jar or little bowl at home where you dump your pocket change at the end of the day? Replace that container with a “Dimes for Dreams” can, and just like that, you’re effortlessly raising money for our youth in Liberia. Read more about it by clicking the link above, and to order a can of your own, reply to this email, or call UDS Co-founder, Heather Cannon-Winkleman at: 612-232-7541.

For free, a UDS team member can deliver one to your home as well, or we can mail you one!

Printable Flyer:

Books on Shelves Advances Learning of Children

There are many things we are grateful for as we reflect on what we accomplished in 2015. There is no doubt our success is your success, because we are UNITED together to support young STARS in Liberia. We are extremely thankful for the additional $110 donated on Giving Tuesday
to upgrade our learning center. We currently have raised $250 or 10% towards our goal of providing quality after school programming to future educators, entrepreneurs, innovators, and leaders in Liberia. Your
investment in the UDS Learning Center yields a lasting return for the children and youth we serve.

UDS Learning Center Library in Liberia.
Today I read this New York Times article “Our (Bare) Shelves, Our Selves” from December 5 that supports our initiative. It highlights how a
physical book is essential to advancing a child’s learning development as cited below.

After G.N.P., the quantity of books in one’s home was the most important predictor of reading performance. The greatest effect was seen in libraries of about 100 books, which resulted in approximately 1.5 extra years of grade-level reading performance. (Diminishing returns kick in at about 500 books, which is the equivalent of about 2.2 extra years of education.)

Libraries matter even more than money; in the United States, with the size of libraries being equal, students coming from the top 10 percent of wealthiest families performed at just one
extra grade level over students from the poorest 10 percent.

Books donated and shipped from Minnesota in 2014 that are now on library shelves in Liberia.
Most children in Liberia grow up without books in their homes or libraries in their communities. Uniting Distant Stars Learning Center is filling this critical void in the community we serve. We currently have about 100 books on our shelves varying in topics from math to science, and cultural literature to young readers series. Our youth compiled a list of books required in their classes, but not available in their schools or affordable to their parents.  Also, they asked for other materials such as chairs, tables, computers, etc. to improve their overall
learning experience.

Liberian student working on his homework on the porch of UDS Learning Center
A $10 minimal investment towards a child’s education can make all the difference in their academic achievements and career aspirations. Please help us meet our goal of $2,500 to fulfill our youth’s wishes during this season of giving by clicking DONATE for debit/credit cards or contributing by check to Uniting Distant Stars and mail at:

Uniting Distant Stars
4010 Lawndale LN N
Plymouth, MN 55446

Sincerest gratitude and appreciation for your continued generosity, kindness, and prayers for our youth in Liberia!

Uniting Distant Stars Learning Center | GiveMN
Books on Shelves Advances Learning of Children

Books on Shelves Advances Learning of Children

There are many things we are grateful for as we reflect on what we accomplished in 2015. There is no doubt our success is your success, because we are UNITED together to support young STARS in Liberia. We are extremely thankful for the additional $110 donated on Giving Tuesday
to upgrade our learning center. We currently have raised $250 or 10% towards our goal of providing quality after school programming to future educators, entrepreneurs, innovators, and leaders in Liberia. Your
investment in the UDS Learning Center yields a lasting return for the children and youth we serve.

UDS Learning Center Library in Liberia.
Today I read this New York Times article “Our (Bare) Shelves, Our Selves” from December 5 that supports our initiative. It highlights how a
physical book is essential to advancing a child’s learning development as cited below.

After G.N.P., the quantity of books in one’s home was the most important predictor of reading performance. The greatest effect was seen in libraries of about 100 books, which resulted in approximately 1.5 extra years of grade-level reading performance. (Diminishing returns kick in at about 500 books, which is the equivalent of about 2.2 extra years of education.)

Libraries matter even more than money; in the United States, with the size of libraries being equal, students coming from the top 10 percent of wealthiest families performed at just one
extra grade level over students from the poorest 10 percent.

Books donated and shipped from Minnesota in 2014 that are now on library shelves in Liberia.
Most children in Liberia grow up without books in their homes or libraries in their communities. Uniting Distant Stars Learning Center is filling this critical void in the community we serve. We currently have about 100 books on our shelves varying in topics from math to science, and cultural literature to young readers series. Our youth compiled a list of books required in their classes, but not available in their schools or affordable to their parents.  Also, they asked for other materials such as chairs, tables, computers, etc. to improve their overall
learning experience.

Liberian student working on his homework on the porch of UDS Learning Center
A $10 minimal investment towards a child’s education can make all the difference in their academic achievements and career aspirations. Please help us meet our goal of $2,500 to fulfill our youth’s wishes during this season of giving by clicking DONATE for debit/credit cards or contributing by check to Uniting Distant Stars and mail at:

Uniting Distant Stars
4010 Lawndale LN N
Plymouth, MN 55446

Sincerest gratitude and appreciation for your continued generosity, kindness, and prayers for our youth in Liberia!

Uniting Distant Stars Learning Center | GiveMN

Meeting the Students at Russ Wood School in Liberia

One of our highlights during our trip to Liberia in September 2013 was to finally meet the students at Russ Wood Christian Academy in Congo Town. The staff and students organized a wonderful Welcome program for our team that completely left us awestruck by students’ enthusiasm to show us talents and knowledge. This post will summarize our visit along with sharing pictures and videos of Liberia’s rising stars.

We were greeted and welcomed with a lively song performed by all the children. Hearing the beautiful voices of the children instantly melted our hearts.

The children opened the program joyfully singing.

After a few announcements, three of the students stood up in front to read from the sampling of reading textbooks we sent last year. Each student was eager to share how well they are performing with their reading abilities. They put the whole hearts into reading their chosen stories. It instantly put smiles on our faces about how much they wanted to show us their accomplishments. Just to be hearing their stories, we felt very pleased knowing we have sent four more boxes of those textbooks as part of our annual shipment. This is schedule to be delivered at the school in December. We hope to send the remaining 24 boxes sometime soon so all the children can be strong readers.

The first up to read was Korlu, who read a story about the Japanese culture from the 5th grade textbook.

Korlu reading her story diligently from start to finish.

 
The next reader was Ishmeal, one of our scholarship students, reading a story about a West African family from the 6th grade textbook.

Ishmeal reading a his story with clarity while Kelvin looks on.

It is important to note that Ishmeal, who is 11 years old, attended our youth leadership workshop on September 13 and 14. He demonstrated his creativity to the much older participants of this two-day workshop by reciting a parable he wrote.

And lastly was Princess, who read a story about dog from the 2nd grade textbook. During our children’s program last December, Princess (then a first grader) read a story from one of the library books that were sent. She definitely loves to read and we will continue to encourage her with sending more books.

Young Princess doing a great job reading her story.

Next, three of the children got up in front to perform a song that they had worked on together.

More of Russ Wood’s talented singers.

Next our Executive Director Heather Cannon-Winkelman was honored by Ishmeal’s original welcoming speech and presented with flowers.

The program continued with a song by another little girl and then the welcome address to our delegation by the principal, Rev. Matthew Y Kargar.

Another of Russ Wood’s talented singers on the left, and Principal Kargar giving his welcome address on the right.

Next Kelvin Fomba, Uniting Distant Stars (UDS) Co-Founder and Country Director, gave a short talk about the relationship that has been developed by UDS and Russ Wood in the last two years. The children have come to appreciate Kelvin is in the past year, and were actively engaged in his talk. He first asked how many of the students planned to get on the honor roll this year and quite a few raised their hands. He then reiterated the importance of education and encouraged them to work hard with their studies. He ended his talk by introducing our team and given us a chance to a few words.

Elijah Wreh, UDS board member and youth workshop facilitator, got up to address the students and also encouraged them to continue their efforts with their school work.

Kelvin is to the left and Elijah to the right.

Gradieh Wreh, UDS board member and youth workshop facilitator, followed with her appreciation for their warm welcome and shared how excited she was to see them demonstrate their talents.

Finally, Heather got up to thank all the children and staff for their great welcome and talked about the direction UDS is planning to take in supporting their educational efforts.

Gradieh is to the left and Heather to the right.

She ended her talk with a challenge for the next year. She presented a book, donated by Donna Cannon (Heather’s Mom) on how to write a graphic novel, which was especially signed by the author for the Russ Wood students. She explained that they would return next year and hope to see that some of the students have created their own graphic novels. Definitely, some of the students will take on this challenge and we will be delighted to hear what they created.

Principal Kargar holding the book on how to write a graphic novel.

We were pleased that some of the teachers not only expressed their gratitude but also invited us to come back next year. They gave us their prayers for a safe journey home and that we would continue to get the support needed for their students to learn and develop their skills along their educational path.

Some of the teachers giving their vote of thanks and a prayer for our team.

After the program, we were given a tour of the school. This building is also the church, so the space is reconfigured Monday through Friday create classrooms. This school has an average enrollment of 250 students, which adds some difficulty in providing an environment conducive learning .

Heather checking out the office on the left. Principal Kargar, Gradieh and Heather in the center. The world map that was part of 2012 shipment of supplies on the right.

We had hoped to have a picture taken with the children outside the building, but the rain changed our plans. So, after moving the benches and desks out of the center of the room, we were able to take a few group pictures.

Meet the students of Russ Wood Christian Academy.

Here is a more candid photo of the Russ Wood students.

We enjoyed our few hours with the students and staff of Russ Wood. The students clearly demonstrated their hunger to learn and it inspired us to continue to do more. The principal and his wife invited us to their small apartment at the back of the school for a snack and soft drinks after the group photos were taken. They shared how all the students had not started yet, because they were still trying to find sponsors to cover their school fees.

Russ Wood was founded to provide lower cost education to the children within its community, whose families struggle to meet their daily needs and find it difficult to pay their children’s school fees. This information gave Heather, who is currently the sole sponsor of the six students on scholarship, reason to add two more applicants to this program for the next school year that will be dedicated to Russ Wood students. Kelvin will be awarding these two scholarships in April 2014 at Russ Wood’s annual gala. Uniting Distant Star co-sponsored the gala in April 2013 with Russ Wood.

We are also pleased to announce that this year’s shipment should be cleared at the Monrovia’s Free Pport by end of November. We plan our annual children’s party for the last day of school before their holiday break in mid-December, and provides each student a hot meal and a gift packet complements of our generous Distant Stars donors. Our supporters helped reach our 2013 goal of shipping four 14-cubic-foot boxes of school supplies, combs, toothbrushes, toys, and other educational materials. We will post updates and pictures of this day-long event later this year.

Again, we greatly appreciate all our sponsors who have supported the education of these amazing students! We will continue reporting on their activities and achievements throughout the year. Thank you!

If you readers would like to increase the number of scholarships awarded
to these worthy students, please contact us at
[email protected] The scholarships vary by grade level but average about $200 for
the year. It covers tuition, uniform and basic supplies. Also, this
program provides incentives for academic achievement that are awarded at
the first and last semesters of the school year. Please go to our
project page to learn more about our Bright Stars Scholarship program and review the student application form for more details.