LEARNING EXCHANGE COLLABORATION

By: Carlos R. Phillips II, Ed.D.

On June 17, 2024, Dr. Carlos R. Phillips II, Principal of Booker T. Washington High School and the High School for the Engineering Professions (BTWHS/ HSEP), visited Booker Washington Institute (BWI) in Kakata, Liberia for a formal campus assessment and collaboration of the Global Learning Exchange STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Agriculture and Mathematics). This will be the second international Global Learning Exchange collaboration between the students of BTWHS/HSEP and students from another country, the first collaboration was with the students of Rydings College, which is located in Karoi, Zimbabwe. Dr. Phillips was invited to visit BWI by Madam Louise McMillan Siaway and Mr. Jonathan Paye-Layleh. Madam Louise Siaway is the CEO of Sehwah Liberia Incorporated, a non-for-profit organization that promotes education through networking and she is a graduate of Booker T. Washington High School in Atlanta, Georgia. Mr. Jonathan Paye-Layleh served as president of the BWI Alumni Association for five years and he represents the President of Liberia (Joseph Boakai) on the institute’s board of governors.

BWI is known as one of the most notable and premiere vocational high school and technical institutions in Liberia, which was founded in 1929. During the visit, Dr. Phillips was able to meet Dr. Nancy Freeman, who is the first female principal of BWI to discuss the school’s rich history and next steps as they plan for their 95th school anniversary on June 29, 2024.  As a part of the formal assessment and campus overview, Dr. Phillips conducted several interactive lectures with the students of BWI in their respective programs of study (ex. Agriculture, Plumbing, Cabinetry, Engineering, Accounting, Home economics and Auto mechanics). Based on the discussions with the student groups, he was able to develop a four-year plan to help the students build a state-of-the-art restroom facility on their campus that has “hot water” as a basic necessity. Th is project has been named, “Th e Benjamin Project,” which is named aft er Benjamin Kolleh, a freshman General Building Trade Plumbing design student. Students from each field of study will play an integral role in the formulation of the project, conducting research and soliciting support (directly similar to the work done by Dr. Booker T. Washington and the building of Tuskegee University).

The theme of this project is “EFFORT: Built on the Foundation of TEAMWORK which was derived from a freshman agriculture student named, Catina Brown. Dr. Phillips met Catina as she and several students were working on the farming area. She described how much work is required of students on the farm, and how they are able to accomplish the task together through teamwork.
Students from BWI and BTWHS/HSEP will collaboratively participate in this project-based learning through communication via the internet/so-cial media. Additionally, all students from BWI will receive guidance from their instructors in each course to help identify the location on campus, seek resources from outside stakeholders which will include, but are not limited to financial contributions, materials/ resources and other significant components. Th is project will have the appropriate water and sanitation needs for a state of the art restroom. Th is will be the model for others to be created on the campus.

Since a consistent fl ow of electricity is a challenge on campus and throughout Liberia, students will use solar energy as a unique component of this project. Th e use of alternative energy for international projects will also be the second project conducted in Africa by the students of BTWHS/HSEP, Dr. Tyechia Phillips, Madame Louise Siaway, President Joseph Boakai and Johnathan Paye-Layleh. Th e first project was conducted on the campus of Rydings College. Th e team developed a wind turbine and solar panels in June 2024. Among the profound learning conversations and the visionary approach, the students have for their campus, Dr. Phillips also shared his assessment and vision with a formal meeting with His Excellency, President Joseph Boakai, on Wednesday, June 19, 2024 in the President’s Mansion. President Boakai was impressed with the assessment and gave approval for “The Benjamin Project.” President Boakai’s stated that he wanted to hear, “Less talking and immediate action,” as he excitedly responded to the upcoming work and the future enhancements for BWI. Dr. Phillips also presented the President with an o ffi cial BTWHS/HSEP desk plaque that has an embossed school seal.

This upcoming school year will be the tenth year that Dr. Phillips will return as the principal of BTWHS/HSEP and he is excited to begin this project as another huge milestone for the Engineering and Leadership students of BTWHS/HSEP. Dr. Phillips believes that by allowing students to participate in project-based learning, the students of BTWHS/HSEP have the ability to learn innovative leadership skills that can positively change or add value to the world. Additionally, the skills that the students learn are invaluable tools that will allow them to excel as they matriculate through high school and move into post-secondary learning or careers.

For more information about this project or donating, please contact Mrs. Roxanne Castillo (rcastil7@houstonisd. org), school secretary at 713-696-6600 or Dr. Carlos R. Phillips II (cphilli2@houstonisd.org).

LEARNING EXCHANGE COLLABORATION

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