Last June students at Village Leadership Academy made Cuba their classroom for a week-long learning experience, focusing on the culture and history of one of the last remaining socialist countries.
The world scholars program at VLA gives students a social perspective by focusing on the issues, history, culture, diversity and other aspects of a country or region. This year students focused on pre-colonial times, the Spanish invasion, the Revolution of 1959 and other events that helped shape Cuba today.
This year, 20 students ranging from kindergarten to eight grade participated.
On the trip students were able to observe a strong Latin and African ethnic presence, small farms built by grassroots organizations, and many unrenovated buildings in their original structure in a country that still remains a mystery to most Americans since former President Obama lifted various travel restrictions to the country.
Osei David Andrews-Hutchinson, the school’s director of technology and an instructor of the world leaders class, said this is the eighth year the world scholars program has conducted trips abroad.
“We wanted to see Cuba in an untouched form before the onslaught of American tourism, commercialism and capitalism,” Andrews-Hutchinson said.
Students traveled from Havana to San Felipe to Santiago to go to museums, see dance companies and local artists, and interact with youth while translators, parents, and faculty accompanied them.
This year, Illinois Sen. Toi Hutchinson and State Rep. La Shawn K. Ford sponsored the delegation to Cuba.
VLA is an independent school based on a social justice construct that does not receive funding from the government. An annual gala helped raise over $30 thousand to offset the cost of the trip for students. Many students conducted their own fundraising projects as well.
Since 2010 students have gone to Brazil, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mexico, South Africa, the Dominican Republic and Panama.
Next year the class will travel to Ghana.
Students reported their findings and insight gained from the trip to family, faculty and guests at the school.