By Deja Harrell

In mid-June, six lucky students from Leo Catholic High School will travel across the sea to spend a couple of weeks in Ghana, West Africa. “I thought it would be a unique experience for my boys to experience actually traveling across the Atlantic, visiting another country, and being able to act as ambassadors of the work we do on the Southside. It also creates a great counter-narrative to the ideology of African American males, we’re normally demonized in the press and this positions us in a positive light,” says Principal Shaka Rawls.

Principal Rawls is correct. It is imperative for the youth to view themselves as capable human beings and what better way to do that than help broaden their world view.

Students were tasked with writing essays that focused on how traveling to Africa connects with their current lives to
be considered for the trip. Principal Shaka wanted students to consider how the history of their African heritage manifests in their current lives.

While there, the children will have a multitude of activities to participate in. From reading and donating
books, learning how Ghanaians cut grass, volunteering, creating Kente cloth, and visiting landmarks, the boys will be granted a well-rounded experience. “A lot of the work we’ll do is going to be academic based so we’ll talk to a lot
of professors who have worked in the states and done a lot of Grassroots organizing in Ghana,” says Principal Shaka.

The trip is designed to be fun, but its core lies in education. “I’m literally taking students who have one paradigm and exposing them to different thoughts and paradigms that are way beyond what they’ve actually constructed. They think the world is actually the south side of Chicago. But understanding how small you are in the grand scheme of things opens up their thinking. You can think anything is possible but when you realize how vast possibilities are you start to understand it a little bit more intimately. You start to think that anything can be created or you can actually experience anything. It’s a sense of empowerment that I’m going for,” Principal Shaka explains passionately.

A trip to Ghana for these boys could mean reshaping their outlook, allowing them to believe that you can be whomever you set out to be, you can go wherever you desire to go. It takes one person to remove the limitations from a child’s mind for them to understand how powerful their being is. Principal Shaka is that person for these boys.

This summer will be the first time “Leo Lions N’ Ghana,” the program, takes place. Principal Shaka hopes to continue the program for Leo students in the future, removing the fear and limited thinking from their minds, one child at a time. A final fundraiser was held on April 4th, 2019 at the Godfrey Hotel.

To learn more about how you can help sponsor a Leo Lion visit: