African Leadership Academy is a bustling hive of activity as, for the first time, there are both senior and junior classes attending the school.
The incoming class comprises 89 students from all over Africa, including for the first time students from Namibia, Somalia, Lesotho and Mauritania. The new arrivals may be facing the expected issues of culture shock and homesickness, but they have the 96 members of the returning class to guide them.
“It’s exciting to have a full house,” stated Special Assistant to the Founders and Coordinator of Opening Week Events Nicola Hopwood. Last year, the inaugural class had the campus to itself. Now they not only have to share with the new group, but they get to explain, guide and even brag a little about the campus and what they achieved in their first year.
However, even the inaugural class will find a few changes to “their” space. Campus renovations were conducted during the summer break, allowing for the creation of a new library, new classrooms, student dorms and faculty housing. Also, even as the ALA student population has grown in size, so has the staff. ALA is proud to welcome a new set of motivated, inspirational teachers who will serve as an addition to the existing world-class faculty at the Academy and offer the first class a few new surprises in the classroom.
As much as the inaugural class has set a standard for the newcomers to live up to, the newcomers are having their own effect on the veterans. It’s a time for the returning class to reflect on just how far they have grown. As they watch the incoming class, they can’t help but recognize themselves just a year ago. Now they are the big brothers and sisters to a whole new group of students, and the difference a year makes is obvious to all.
Many of the first week’s orientation activities were run by the second year students. “They took ownership of the icebreakers and other activities,” Ms. Hopwood noted. To top off the week, noted South African musician Vusi Mahlasela made his second appearance at the school, playing for the students and faculty on the quad on Saturday night.
Although the first week was light on scholastics, it wasn’t all fun and games. New students were expected to complete foundation readings, including case studies and selection tests. Other activities included meeting with teachers and counselors to ensure that all students are getting the personalized education that best meets their needs.
To drive home that a tradition becomes such through repetition, the second class followed the inaugural class’s footsteps in planting a tree to represent their year. More than anything else, the new arrivals have brought with them a sense for the inaugural class that they are truly building a legacy, a culture, a tradition. That’s a lot for a teenager to live up to, but the students at ALA take it all in stride.