Banner Photo: (Left) Romina Kazadjian, Margaret Plaskey and Cari Dighton at the Clinton Global Initiavtive Conference. (Right) School children from St. Joseph’s Anglican Primary and Secondary School in Agbogba, Ghana.
Homepage Photo: Cari Dighton with children from Agbogba, Ghana.
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THE BORAH FOUNDATION
Cari Dighton | Lindley Award Winner 2011
Globally Committed by Working to Improve Education in Ghana
by Lisa Heer
Originally written Spring 2011
Education can take you places. It is how you learn to function in the global community, and how you learn to progress in society. That is, if your school can afford to keep up with the rest of the world.
While studying at the University of Ghana in Legon, a suburb of the capital city Accra, in the spring semester of 2009, Cari Dighton volunteered at a primary school that was seriously lacking in technology, and therefore education.
“We had to painfully watch as the teachers taught students how to use a computer by drawing a mouse, keyboard, and other components of a computer on a beaten and battered chalkboard,” said Dighton.
The school, St. Joseph’s Anglican Primary and Secondary School in Agbogba, has over 500 students and not a single computer for learning or record keeping purposes.
“We decided that by whatever means necessary, we would somehow put a sustainable lab in the school,” said Dighton, speaking of two students who studied in Ghana with her, Margaret Plaskey (Grand Valley State University, Michigan) and Romina Kazadjian (Adelphi University, Long Island), who are now her project partners.
This turned out to be a pretty big endeavor.
An interesting opportunity arose for the group, however, and they were accepted to attend the Clinton Global Initiative Conference at the University of Miami in Miami, FL last April. This conference focuses on finding sustainable solutions to a number of global issues worldwide, and includes working and skills sessions to help students develop their own “Commitments to Action,” in one of five areas: Education, Environment and Climate Change, Peace and Human Rights, Poverty Alleviation, or Public Health.
After their experiences with the school in Ghana, Dighton and her partners had a pretty clear idea of what their global commitment would be.
“Naturally, because we had a personal connection with the growth of the children we spent so many hours with in Ghana,” said Dighton of their decision. “We realized if we go about it the right way, this type of commitment can really make a difference for the students at the school and also the community where the school resides.”
Their project is called Agbogba Computers, The Innovation of a Nation: Ghana, which they commonly refer to as ACTION: Ghana.
At the conference, the group picked up strategies on how best to go about implementing a sustainable project and had the opportunity to do some serious networking. They made contacts with the non-profit organizations 1Village Africa, Inveneo Computers, and Volunteer Africa, who are now their partners in achieving their sustainable lab in Ghana.
“I think we really had no idea what we were getting ourselves into at first, so the Clinton Global Initiative conference really put it into perspective for us and gave us goals to work towards,” said Dighton.
Since the 2010 conference, the group has developed a website to promote their cause, become tax exempt with a 501c3 status, and established a partner organization that will set up and maintain the lab on the ground in Ghana.
Dighton, majoring in International Studies and Journalism and Mass Media, returned to Ghana in the summer of 2010 to work as an intern for a general circulation newspaper in Accra. While there, she had the opportunity to contact the 1Village Africa organization and meet with the headmistresses of the school to conduct a field assessment and determine the best location for the lab, the cost of the lab, and so on.
Dighton and her partners will attend the Clinton Global Initiative conference again at the University of California in San Diego, CA on April 1-3 and focus on learning effective ways to solicit funding.
“We have the specialized computers picked out, and now all we need is the necessary amount of money to get the ball rolling,” said Dighton.
In addition to the opportunity to attend the Clinton Global Initiative a second year, Dighton and her partners were chosen to go on the MTVU’s The Dean’s List show to talk about ACTION: Ghana, because although their lab isn’t installed yet, their progress has been significant in the last year.
“We have basically everything we need as far as a plan and strategic framework for our project implementation goes,” said Dighton. “Now we must just focus on raising the necessary funds to install the lab.”
While working on her global commitment to education, Dighton continues her own studies at the University of Idaho, in hopes of combining her degrees to work somewhere in the foreign services, the field of international diplomacy, or in the role of a foreign corresponded for an international news organization.
This pursuit was largely inspired by her experiences studying abroad, going on an international alternative service break in Romania, and becoming involved with other globally oriented events through the University of Idaho Martin Institute.
“It is impossible to sum up the ways Ghana changed me and what the people and the beautiful simplicity of their country gave me,” said Dighton.
And now she is determined to give back.
Dighton also recently returned from New York City for the National Model United Nations conference, where she practiced the role of representing a country as a delegate.
“Going to the UN headquarters and voting for resolutions our delegation helped write in the General Assembly hall made the world seem smaller,” said Dighton. “It made the United Nations seem closer, easier to ‘touch,’ and more real somehow.”
Her concern for people on an international level and her involvement with ACTION: Ghana contributed to Dighton being named a co-winner of the 2011 Lindley Award.
“Her knack of connecting and engaging with diverse people is noteworthy,” said Martin School of International Studies Director Bill Smith, who nominated Dighton for the award. “She is enthusiastic about opportunities to engage with visitors. The combination of academics, engagement, and work truly distinguishes her.”
After graduating, Dighton plans to travel to Madrid, Spain in the fall to work for the Spanish Ministry of Education teaching English for eight months. After that, the opportunities are endless.
“I am not yet sure what I want to study, but I have been toying with the ideas of master’s programs in International Relations and Diplomacy, Public Health, or International Development,” said Dighton. “I would like to take the Foreign Service exam sometime in the next few years, and I do not want to lose the journalistic side of my life, so I am planning to look into doing some freelance work wherever I go.”
Her experiences at Idaho have made her confident that she will be successful in whatever she decides to pursue.
“To me, being a Lindley Award winner means that my hard work throughout the past four years has really paid off,” said Dighton. “The award really helps give me the courage I need to know that I can do whatever I want in my life if I set my mind and apply my passion to it.”