Oakton Students Embark on Cultural Odyssey to Ghana for Immersive Learning Experience

L-R: Robert McRay, Michael Jackson, Professor Olabisi Adenekan, Carol Anglin, Emmanuel Rayford and Ashley Dabney said goodbye to their family, friends and supporters at the Oakton’s Des Plaines campus.
Des Plaines, Ill. (June 10, 2024) - Five adventurous Oakton College students and alumni have set out to Ghana for a life-changing study abroad adventure. With eager anticipation, the students bid farewell to their familiar surroundings, June 7, venturing for an immersive educational odyssey.

"I have been out of the country before, but I have never been to Africa,” said Emmanuel Rayford. “I think this experience will contribute to my personal growth. I cannot wait to immerse myself in the culture, learn more about the country, and meet new friends."

Rayford, a Skokie resident, is pursuing an Applied Business Certificate at Oakton. He recently founded Primel Productions company and hopes to build his video and photo portfolio during his time in Ghana.

Facilitated by Oakton’s study abroad program in collaboration with EDU Africa, the initiative underscores the institution's commitment to fostering global engagement and cross-cultural understanding. The program aims to infuse diverse perspectives into the educational landscape.

“A lot of our ancestors came from Ghana,” said Robert McRay from Evanston, who is pursuing a Human Resources Specialist Certificate. “I want to go and see where it all started. Get a taste and see the rich history of Ghana. I do outreach in the neighborhood and want to be able to tell young men, especially young African American men, what I have seen and what our ancestors went through to get the things we take for granted.”

Rayford and McRay are enrolled in Oakton’s Emory Williams Academy for Black Men, a program designed for historically underserved and underrepresented students, emphasizing focused support for Black male-identifying students. Four of the five students traveling are part of Oakton’s Building Lasting African Culture and Knowledge (B.L.A.C.K.) Student Success Program (BSSP). The fifth student is an Oakton alum who returned to participate in the Ghana study abroad program.

For nearly a month, students will immerse themselves in Accra, Ghana's vibrant capital, while studying at the University of Ghana's Legon Campus. Oakton English Professor Olabisi Adenekan, Ph.D., will accompany the group. The students enrolled in the Ghanaian History and Culture, and Ghanaian Literature courses, which are instructed by the University of Ghana professors. The group will participate in a diverse range of local excursions, along with two weekend-long trips to Cape Coast and the Volta Region. Their itinerary offers a rich tapestry of experiences, from exploring historical sites such as Cape Coast Castle to visiting Accra's Independence Square, providing insights into Ghana's path to independence and its postcolonial history.

“I have been wanting to go to Ghana for a very long time,” said Ashley Dabney from Evanston, who is pursuing an Associate in Applied Science in Nursing. “I did a DNA test and discovered I have links to Ghana. I want to be fully immersed in the culture, see traditions, and connect with the residents of Ghana. I also want to learn more about slavery and how our ancestors came to the U.S., even if the experience might be triggering. I want to take it in all I can take.”

Oakton is committed to advancing equity for all students by eliminating obstacles and providing educational access. All five students' participation in the program is fully funded through generous donations from the Oakton College Educational Foundation and Oakton’s Student Government Association.

Via Oakton's study abroad program, students have studied in India, Italy, Ireland and Poland. In the last academic year, students participated in study abroad programs in England, Spain and Austria. This summer, in addition to the Ghana program, students will study in Austria, Spain and Ireland. To learn more about study abroad opportunities at Oakton, please visit Oakton’s website.