Rosalind Reaves is an American educator on a lifetime mission: helping the world one student at a time. Her mission has taken her to Michigan, Virginia, New York, and abroad to the Gambia and Malawi.
Here, Rosalind shares her story and what inspired her to give to Ashesi.
Where did you grow up?
I was born and raised in Detroit, Michigan—Motown, The Motor City, one of 7 children in a blended family. I attended parochial schools from K through 12, and then the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor for undergrad.
Can you tell us about your path to becoming an educator?
Education was certainly not the trajectory I had planned for myself. My interest was in politics and law—-an interest sparked in high school while completing a research paper on the Apartheid regime. I attended the University of Michigan with that goal in mind, majoring in Political Science. But after my brother’s passing, just shy of his 21st birthday (I was just shy of my 19th), I began to rethink my educational and career goals. Soon enough, I found myself double-majoring in Political Science and Education and on a mission to “save the world,” one student at a time. After completing my studies, I accepted a teaching position in Alexandria, Virginia. That experience, and many others that followed, reaffirmed for me that I had found my passion.
In what capacity do you serve at Oakland Community College?
Oakland Community College is a five-campus college in Oakland County, Michigan. I serve as faculty for the Academic Support Center—Royal Oak Campus, where I oversee all academic support programming for the campus and teach College Success Skills and Introduction to Education.
You taught in the Gambia in 1993 and in Malawi in 1998. What inspired you to teach in Africa?
My interest in Africa began in earnest my junior year of high school, with a research paper on South African Apartheid. Activism in college, particularly my involvement in FSACC, the Free South Africa Coordinating Committee, nurtured and reinforced this interest. But it was during graduate school in New York City when I seriously contemplated teaching in Africa. Fortuitously, I happened upon a new non-profit program, Teachers for Africa (a subsidiary of the International Foundation for Education and Self-Help), that aimed to place American teachers in African schools. In 1993, I was one of 25 teachers assigned to teach in the Gambia, West Africa. A second opportunity to teach presented itself five years later, at Montfort College in Malawi.
Can you tell us about your experiences and the impressions they left on you?
Teaching affords an immersive experience like no other. Teaching Form 3 (and 4 and 5) English at Nusrat High School the Gambia and Introduction to Special Education at Montfort College in Malawi, respectively, I got to experience students through a significant part of the educational pipeline. What struck me most about my experiences, in both settings, is my former students’ love of learning, their unquenchable thirst for educational attainment. Many students requested additional lessons over the weekend, so school became more like a 7-day proposition than a traditional 5-day one. But I enjoyed these extra sessions because teaching in the Gambia and Malawi didn’t seem like work; it was more like a vocation, a calling of sorts.
I also marveled at what I observed as a collectivist, “all-in-this-together,” orientation. Learning for my students appeared to be more a cooperative enterprise than a competitive one, so the school-related stress that often beset my American students did not appear to the case for my Gambian students.
From a personal perspective, teaching in the Gambia and Malawi significantly expanded my creative capacity. The relative scarcity of classroom and instructional resources—resources I often took for granted when teaching Stateside—– provided many opportunities to improvise, to make the proverbial “something out of nothing.” Without question, I am certainly the better, more highly effective teacher for having taught under such circumstances.
Connection to Ashesi
How did you become acquainted with Ashesi?
I inquired about philanthropic opportunities in Ghana with a Ghanaian friend, Mr. Nyarko, who then put me in touch with his niece, Ms. Quarshie-Twum. She enthusiastically introduced to me Ashesi, which prompted me to reach out to the Foundation.
What has inspired you to invest in Ashesi University and its students?
Checking out the Ashesi website, I was inspired by the University’s mission statement and the success stories of its students. A subsequent conversation with Joanna Bargeron cemented my desire to invest in Ashesi.
What do you hope to achieve through this endowment?
For me, it’s about paying it forward, because Africa has given so much to the world and to me personally. It’s also about being part of a long and proud tradition of African American investment in Africa. Finally, having twice traveled to Ghana, it’s a ‘thank you’ gesture to a country that is near and dear to my heart. My hope is that, upon completion of their studies at Ashesi and after settling into their respective careers, the beneficiaries of the scholarship will continue this virtuous cycle of giving.
Our many thanks to Rosalind for believing in
the Ashesi Vision and investing in our students!
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