Asimeng-Boahene helps bridge divisions as cultural liaison
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Communicating the similarities of two groups of students separated by thousands of miles, language barriers, and cultural divides was the task of Lewis Asimeng-Boahene, Penn State Harrisburg associate professor of social studies education as he served as cultural liaison in the new Hershey’s Learn to Grow: Ghana Distance Learning Program. The initiative, led by The Hershey Company in partnership with Cisco Systems and Source Trust, brought together 11- and 12-year-old students from Milton Hershey School and the rural village of Assin Fosu’s school in south central Ghana for interactive, virtual classes in the Chocolate Lab at The Hershey Story, The Museum on Chocolate Avenue.
For three months, teachers from the two schools and education staff at the museum presented six lessons aimed at increasing cultural understanding between the two locations. The students explored mutual cocoa bean connections – Hershey is the largest American maker of chocolate, which is made from cocoa, and Ghana produces 70% of the world’s cocoa supply.
Initially, Asimeng-Boahene’s input helped teachers gauge student interest areas, language abilities, and methods of engagement during lesson planning. Then, as a cultural liaison for the groups, Middletown resident Asimeng-Boahene, native to Ghana, and coincidentally, the region of the Assin Fosu school, focused on the communication between the students. He translated where necessary, so that both groups fully understood the material; helped the students interpret cultural differences; and brought to the project the unique perspective of someone who has lived in both countries.
“This program is important because it exposes the children on both sides to other cultures in terms of education and socio-cultural learning systems and in doing so, expands their intellectual horizon and repertoire,” said Asimeng-Boahene. “It exposes them to another side of the world.”
Penn State Harrisburg alumna Amy Bischof, a 2002 master’s graduate in American studies and the current director of The Hershey Story, The Museum on Chocolate Avenue, and Denise Meister, Penn State Harrisburg professor and teacher education program chair, were integral in bringing together Hershey and Asimeng-Boahene while the project was still in the planning stages.
“Dr. Boahene is a wealth of knowledge about Ghana, and he is willing to share and make this a better experience for everyone involved. I don’t know if we would have been able to have such a successful program without him,” said Bischof. “His contributions have helped make this a richer experience.”