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Student athletes spend summer volunteering with youth

Alexandra Munson weighs baby at Ghana clinic

Alexandra Munson '12 weighs a baby at a well-child clinic in Ghana, where she volunteered with the Atorkor Development Foundation.

Cornell women's basketball seniors Allie Munson and Maka Anyanwu spent the summer nearly 6,000 miles apart, but their experiences were fairly similar. Both Munson and Anyanwu spent several weeks teaching young students: Munson volunteered for the Atorkor Development Foundation in Ghana while Anyanwu was with the X-Mester program at Vincennes University in Indiana.

The Atorkor Development Foundation is a nonprofit development organization based in Ghana and the United Kingdom. Its vision is to transform Atorkor from a poor and underdeveloped village into a self-sustaining community with basic amenities -- jobs, well-equipped schools, vocational and medical centers, clean drinking water, electricity and affordable communication facilities.

While in Atorkor, a small fishing village on the Atlantic Coast in the southeastern Volta Region of Ghana, Munson spent eight weeks teaching nutrition to 90 junior high school students. She also taught sports and games to kindergarten students, coached the junior high volleyball team and took lessons in Ewe, the local language of the region. Munson, who is interested in pursuing a career in international development and is working on a minor in global health at Cornell, also shadowed nurses at the local community health center and was responsible for weighing babies at the well-child clinics in neighboring villages. As part of her work with the health center, Munson also gave a presentation to the community about cholera and sanitation and helped with a mosquito-net distribution campaign.

Maka Anyanwu teaches a class at Vincennes University

Maka Anyanwu '12 teaches a class as part of the X-Mester program at Vincennes University in Indiana, where more than 100 urban high school juniors got their first college residential experience.

"The experience in Ghana definitely taught me to appreciate what we have here in America and the opportunities that we have," says Munson. "In my village in Ghana most people don't have money, sometimes they don't have food for the day, a lot of them don't have more than one set of clothes, and they don't have the opportunities to go to school or play sports like we do. The experience taught me to really appreciate everything we're given here and to take advantage of all our opportunities and make the most of them."

Anyanwu, a California native, spent two weeks in an intensive fellowship where more than 100 urban high school juniors got their first college residential experience. X-Mester is a program that provides a structured and supportive environment where students learn independence and what it takes to be a successful college student as they take a full-term course for college credit.

Alexandra Munson with junior high volleyball team in Ghana

Munson with the junior high school volleyball team she coached in Ghana. She also taught nutrition to 90 junior high school students.

One of 15 fellows, Anyanwu served as a teaching assistant in an introductory psychology class. Hope Clausman, a professor at Vincennes, taught the two-hour morning session and then turned the afternoon discussion and study sessions over to Anyanwu and another teaching assistant. In addition to working in the classroom, Anyanwu served as a resident adviser in one of the residence halls and coordinated the basketball activities that were held each day.

"I thought this was a good opportunity for me because I've always been interested in helping kids," says Anyanwu. "I thought I could share my college experience and offer something to the students. I went from Cal State University [in Fullerton] to [Umpqua Community] junior college to an Ivy League school, and I wanted to show them that you can achieve whatever you want to achieve, even when the road isn't a straight one. Overall the experience was kind of life changing for me. I really enjoyed teaching the students. It was a very demanding and difficult experience, but it was very rewarding and exciting."

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