African Student Association mentors local high school students

Members of USF’s African Student Association meet on the campus of King High School in Tampa to discuss life beyond their formative years. SPECIAL TO THE ORACLE/FODAY JAWARD

The USF African Student Association (ASA) has collaborated with C. Leon King High School (KHS) in Tampa to establish an affiliate program on the high school’s campus.

The adoption of KHS into the ASA community is intended to educate students about African heritage and prepare them for the world outside of grade school. Any student, regardless of cultural background, is welcome to join, according to Foday Jaward, president of the African Students Association.

Jaward pushed for the expansion of the ASA as he said he felt the organization’s community presence was not well enough known.

“Since I’ve attended USF, I felt as though ASA needed more of a focus on the community, whether it be local or global,” Jaward said. “KHS is a location we’re familiar with, and I felt as though they needed an ASA presence in a high school setting.”

Collaboration between ASA and KHS centers around a strong sense of mentorship, according to Jaward, a graduate of KHS himself. He said the mentorship can involve not only familiarizing students with African history but preparing them for opportunities after high school.

“Growing up in the United States, you don’t really learn about your African identity, history or who you are,” Jaward said. “I feel like that’s very important, especially during the development periods of your life.”

Christine Njiri, secretary of ASA, said she believes in the organization’s ability to prepare high school students for what life is like beyond high school and the transition into higher education.

“As a USF transfer student, I know college itself is very difficult with not knowing who you are,” Njiri said. “With the confusion of such a big college, ASA provides a very welcoming vibe to anyone nervous about attending.”

Nishira Mitchell, vice principal of the International Baccalaureate program at KHS, said the collaboration has shown large student interest.

“I think it’s a great opportunity for students of a diverse background to feel represented before they begin the college process,” Mitchell said. “Since the organization comes from a local university, the kids pick up that ASA knows what they’re going through.”

Students at KHS are excited about being able to speak with more relatable young adults, according to Mitchell.

“I’ve seen members of ASA interact with students quite a few times and they’re building that bridge,” Mitchell said. “The students are excited to work with ASA, not just because they’re similar, but because they’re older and represent what they can become.”

Although the executive board of ASA would like for high schoolers within the program to join their organization at USF one day, Jaward said it is more important that a connection is reached than a member is recruited.

“If they go to college and join another organization, that’s fine,” Jaward said. “I just hope that as long as they’re in the organization in high school they’ll have a decent sense of who they are as well as a decent sense of different cultures around them.”

Dominique N. Clary, vice president of ASA, said she hopes that students who graduate from KHS and choose to go to USF will continue the legacy of the program as it acts as a transitioning tool for new students.

“When I joined ASA, I found myself meeting people and learning things about who I am,” Clary said. “When you participate with the program in high school and then join in college, you will have a sense of bond and direction.”

Members of ASA agreed they would have enjoyed the organization’s presence within their own high schools. Student preparedness and exposure to culture are important for the association, according to Clary.

“For me personally, I never really saw a lot of cultures,” Clary said. “I saw people and learned a little bit, but I was never able to immerse myself in the way I’m able to here. Just to be able to learn the lives and what goes on with not just people from Africa, but other countries as well.

“If in high school any organization like this existed, I feel like I would have been a little more prepared for college mentally. By ASA doing this, it’s deeper than just joining our organization. This is a bond. We’re here for these high schoolers in any shape or form.”