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African Exchange at SUNY Plattsburgh Builds Cultural Understanding

If there are ice rinks in Chad, Niger or Burkina Faso, these young people had never visited them.

With a little encouragement, however, many of the 24 youth and six adults visiting Plattsburgh from those countries laced up skates, strapped on red helmets and slid out onto the ice at Stafford Arena.

It was one of many new experiences afforded by the Youth Leadership Program with Francophone Africa in March and April. The exchange was hosted by SUNY Plattsburgh and the Program for African Growth through Education Inc., a nonprofit headed by Dr. Jean Ouedraogo, a Plattsburgh professor and native of Burkina Faso.

Lessons on Leadership

Throughout their two weeks in Plattsburgh, students spent their days in French language workshops on leadership, democracy and volunteerism. They spent nights and weekends with host families, discovering American cultural staples such as Buffalo chicken, Katy Perry, indoor pets and household electronics.

The program concluded with a week of bus travel to Albany and Washington, D.C. The students flew home with $100 to begin their own community-building projects.

A Promise

“We would like to express our gratitude because this program helps us build the necessary bridges for cultural understanding and brotherhood between Africans and Americans,” said Charles Djikom, an adult participant from Chad, at a campus reception.

“Our promise is that all we have been learning here will positively impact our lives, our outlook and consequently our countries. We very much love the community of Plattsburgh and pray that God may continue to bless you.”

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