Aspiring for More Peace

January 05, 2018

After finishing high school, Angela Frimpong ’20 took a gap year and founded the Angels Project with four of her friends. They went into public schools around Jamestown in Accra, Ghana, and talked to students about the value of education and staying in school. Then, they all went their separate ways to attend college in the United States. Frimpong traveled to Iowa to attend Grinnell, but she did not forget the community she had left behind.

One day, while sitting in the Burling Library, Frimpong and a friend from Zimbabwe were discussing their frustration about economic hardships in Africa. Frimpong found herself tearing up, wishing she could do something to address the problems. Her friend suggested that she apply for a Davis Projects for Peace prize.

“That passion was still in my mind, but Davis pushed me to go for it,” says Frimpong.

Developing a Peace Project

Davis Projects for Peace is a national program that awards successful student applicants $10,000 to support a peace-themed summer project. It is one of the many funding opportunities available to students through Grinnell’s Peace and Conflict Studies Program. In previous years, Grinnell student projects have ranged from combating Islamophobia in Eastern Europe to improving child nutrition in Ecuador to economically empowering Mayan communities in Guatemala.

“Graduates of Grinnell College must be prepared to deal with conflict, whether on the interpersonal, local, community, national, or international level,” says Simone Sidwell, peace and conflict studies program coordinator. “Helping provide students with funding opportunities gives them hands-on experience in these areas.”

Each applicant must come up with their own project, and demonstrate that it is feasible, creative, impactful, and sustainable — with a reach beyond a single summer. Grinnell has had at least one prize winner every year since Davis was founded in 2007. A big factor in Grinnell’s good track record is its dedication to Peace and Conflict Studies – which recently became a concentration in its own right – as well as Sidwell’s expert guidance.

“Simone is an angel!” says Frimpong. After her friend encouraged her to apply to Davis, Frimpong found herself overflowing with ideas. Sidwell helped her to narrow those ideas down and figure out which of them would be feasible. They decided that Frimpong could make the most impact by going back to the community where she had already built relationships. In spring 2017, her “Aspiring for More” project proposal won Davis funding.

While Frimpong was revisiting familiar territory, she also had the benefit of looking at her quest to benefit the schools in Jamestown from a new perspective. “I learned so much at Grinnell,” she says. “GDS [Global Development Studies] had an obvious impact on what I wanted to do and the change I wanted to see … I wanted to really listen to the teachers, listen to the students.” Armed with these tools, and the skills from an alumni course called Fundraising and Development, Frimpong was ready to breathe new life into the Angels Project.

Going Back

Frimpong entered the summer of 2017 with two project objectives. She wanted to teach students in Jamestown to use the Internet in positive ways by, for instance, taking classes on Khan Academy. She also wanted to help the schools by purchasing computers, routers, and motivational books.

The idea to focus on Internet use came from observations Frimpong and her cofounders had made during the Angels Project. Young teenagers were teaching themselves to code or build websites, then using these skills to con people online. Frimpong says that before she went to Grinnell, she saw this behavior in an entirely negative light. Now, she understands that students are eager to learn and push themselves — they just need to be given a more positive outlet. “The next iPhone is going to come from Ghana, because these children I’m working with are smart!”

When Frimpong returned to Ghana, she reconnected with her friends from the Angels Project, adding their knowledge and expertise to her own. They worked with four schools comprising a total of 140 students. Frimpong also talked to teachers to ensure that she was investing in the resources they felt would be most beneficial. Then, at the beginning of August, she organized a one-week seminar where students discussed life goals and aspirations and listened to motivational speakers. She hopes that in the future, she can help to set up clubs for children to learn to code.

“Davis was something I really poured my heart and soul into,” says Frimpong. “It was just a very beautiful way to give back to my community.”

Angela Frimpong is an intended biology major with a statistics concentration from Accra, Ghana.

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