Seven African-American teenagers are leaving Friday for a spring break trip that will take them far beyond San Francisco city limits to the West African country of Ghana.
Through the San Francisco Police Department’s “Operation Genesis,” the group of seven high school students, comprised of two girls and five boys between the ages of 14 and 18, are flying from San Francisco International Airport to Accra, the capital city of Ghana, with a layover in Frankfurt, Germany.
“Some (of the students) have never been anywhere out of the U.S.,” said police Lt. Troy Dangerfield, who is helping organize the trip with the lead organizer, police Officer Jason Johnson.
This is the first year SFPD has organized the trip, which was spearheaded by Johnson, a six-year department veteran from the Bayview station.
Johnson works with and mentors many students in the Bayview District and organized the trip to give them a chance to connect with their African history and learn more about their ancestry, according to Dangerfield.
Dangerfield said as African-Americans growing up in San Francisco, these students have seen pictures of Africa but it seems distant and disconnected from them.
“To actually be on the actual continent of Africa is really intriguing to them,” Dangerfield said.
He added some of the students have never been on an airplane before and “can’t contain themselves” whenever talking about the upcoming trip.
The nine-day Ghana visit starts in Accra and makes its way through the region to Kumasi and then to Cape Coast, where the students will meet with their Ghanaian counterparts at a local high school.
Other trip highlights include visiting an Accra museum featuring author and civil rights activist W.E.B. Du Bois, at his converted home where he lived and wrote, and volunteering at a village where the residents make hand-woven kente cloth and grow cocoa.
The program is intended to be educational, according to Dangerfield, while showing the students their ancestry and the sacrifices the predecessors made to come to America.
“This is learning,” he said.
The students have been meeting regularly at the Boys and Girls Club in Bayview-Hunters Point and studying up on African history and studies. While traveling, the students will be journaling and have a book list to complement their guided tour through the country, Dangerfield said.
Dangerfield said that the students will see that other people are “living far beneath their means” and he hopes that the SF group will value their education and what they have here upon their return.
Johnson worked to raise $40,000 in donations for the past year and a half to make the trip possible and free. The trip has the support of police Chief Greg Suhr, according to Dangerfield.
The students were selected after about 20 applicants wrote essays about addressing why they wanted to be part of “Operation Genesis.”
According to Dangerfield, Johnson hopes to make this an annual program.
Dangerfield and Johnson went to Ghana earlier this year to scout accommodations, travel logistics and location visits for the students.
Two other police officers and two leaders from the Boys and Girls Club will also be chaperoning the trip, he said.
Sasha Lekach, Bay City News