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Giving a year to Ghana
O’Connell alumna Katie Yohe will spend a year teaching in Ghana.
Like many other recent college graduates, Katie Yohe is anxiously awaiting the beginning of her first job and everything that comes with it — new responsibilities, new co-workers, new experience, and, of course, a new commute home — hers will be a hike — a little more than 5,200 miles. That’s because for the next 11 months, Yohe’s job, will take her a world away from her family and friends, as she teaches second-graders in Ghana, West Africa.
A 2005 graduate of Bishop O’Connell High School in Arlington, Yohe decided to take this job while attending St. Mary’s College in Notre Dame, Ind., where she graduated in May with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education.
Yohe’s aunt and several friends had joined the Peace Corps and she was interested in doing overseas service work herself. She heard about a mission site of the Sisters of the Holy Cross, the order that founded her college. The sisters were building a school in the little village of Kasoa, Ghana, in West Africa. Yohe decided it would be a perfect destination for her post-graduate service work.
“It’s the best of both worlds — still affiliated with the college and also doing service,” she said.
She proposed the idea of teaching abroad to the Sisters and they were interested. Then, Yohe took it a step further and got St. Mary’s involved. Eventually, the school agreed to sponsor Yohe’s trip, making it the college’s very first post-graduate program. If all goes according to plan, this will become an option for all graduating education majors at St. Mary’s looking for service opportunities.
For the next year, Yohe, and fellow grad Megan Ryan of Fort Wayne, Ind., will teach second-graders at the order’s school, Our Lady of Holy Cross.
The school has about 250 students from mostly poor farming families. It has been adding one grade level per year for three years, when all the students were in preschool. This year, the second grade will be the oldest grade level.
While there, Yohe and Ryan will train the school’s five other teachers — Ghanaian sisters who run the school with donations and funding from the order. They will also run a youth group for high school and middle school students.
As her August 15th departure date comes closer, Yohe said she’s been stressing out a little bit and is nervous, but also very excited. This is not her first service work — during high school, she volunteered at a soup kitchen and helped with O’Connell’s annual Chunky Soup Drive — but this is the first large-scale project she’s taken on. She and Ryan talk on the phone at least once a day about plans for their trip.
“It’s gonna be an adventure,” she said. “I’m excited just to get to know a whole different culture and be in a different part of the world, to see how they live and be able to live with them.”
Upon arrival in Ghana, both Yohe and Ryan will attend an orientation, where they’ll be welcomed into the village and introduced to everyone. From then on, they will have to adjust to a completely different way of life, one without TV or cell phones.
Ryan, who graduated with a major in elementary education and a minor in communicative disorders, said the simplicity is one of the things she most looks forward to about the trip.
“We get to live a life of simplicity for a whole year, which will be such a change from the American culture with so much instant gratification and the access we have to everything,” she said. “That’s all going to disappear for a while and I think that’s gonna be really awesome for our spiritual lives. I could end up hating it, but that’s what I’m most excited for.”
And while the year will provide Yohe and Ryan with great experiences, allowing them to grow spiritually and professionally, they are both excited to get to help the Ghanaian students and the sisters.
“I just want to leave a mark, somehow,” said Ryan. “I hope we leave a piece of ourselves in Ghana and make an impact.”
“I want to do our job and fulfill what the sisters are expecting,” Yohe said. “If this works out every year students will come over, so we want to set the bar high and do our job well.”
How to help
Katie Yohe and Megan Ryan need help buying supplies for the students and sisters in Ghana. Checks to Sisters of the Holy Cross. In the memo line, write Our Lady of Holy Cross School Kasoa, Ghana. Checks can be mailed to International Office at St. Mary’s College, 100 Lourdes Hall, Notre Dame, IN 46556. All money collected will go toward school supplies for the students, which cannot be shipped and must be purchased in the country.