Each year the sophomore class at Casco Bay High School engages in Africa Rising, a research and presentation project required for all tenth grade students. Every sophomore chooses a developing country in Africa and researches the difficulties it faces in meeting one of the United Nation’s 13 standards for the developing world. Students dig deep into the country’s history, culture, and political climate to give context to the issues, before finding an aid organization that is addressing the issue in that particular country. Students must also determine what impact a $1,500 grant would have on their chosen organization.
Stuart Croft is one of the Casco Bay High School teachers responsible for making the Africa Rising project a success each year. He said that the project originally began in 2008. “Back then we had a global focus,” Croft said. “Over time it sort of evolved to focus on African countries.” What makes the Africa Rising project different from typical assignments is that the grant money is real. The grant is funded through Casco Bay’s student-run Halloween dance, where the student body raised $2,500 dollars.
“[The grant] adds authenticity, and allows the students to feel passionately about their presentation… When they contribute meaningfully, they really put their heart into it.” said Croft. He added that the project pushes students to a different level, and he has seen them surprise themselves by creating work beyond their own expectations. The project is academically rigorous, builds student confidence in public speaking, and challenges them to develop research and presentation skills while learning about the larger world.
The research project culminates in a full day of speeches and presentations, each sophomore student presenting their research and making their pitch to a classroom of fellow students and professional panelists from the community, who then choose one finalist from the room of presenters.
This year, on Nov. 17, the seven finalists presented to the entire sophomore class, who then voted to select the winner. The winning presentation was awarded $1,500 dollars for Girls Not Brides, a global organization determined to end child marriage and provide educational opportunities for girls. The other six finalists earned $150 for their organizations. At the end of the day, Croft applauded the sophomore class on their hard work, and left them with these words, “Let this experience be a reminder that you, as one person, are capable of tremendous impact.”