MAMARONECK, N.Y. - Parker Thelander is a member of Students for Senegal, a student-led club at Mamaroneck High School that has raised approximately $20,000 for Senegalese schools in the village of Lambaye.
Thelander, a senior, was one of 13 students who visited several villages in the West African nation last February under the supervision of four teachers, including the Senegal native and founder of Students for Senegal Amary Seck.
"For them, it was good to see the problems, then they can have a better idea of what they are trying to raise money for," said Seck, who went to elementary school in Lambaye.
Students for Senegal - whose mission is to raise money and awareness to help improve the lives of Senegalese children - is in its third full year. They held their first meeting of the school year last Thursday, which filled every inch of Seck's chemistry classroom.
"We're the biggest club in the school," said Margo Schneider, co-president of Students for Senegal, whose board alone consists of nearly 20 juniors and seniors. "Because of Mr. Seck, we feel so connected to the cause."
During their trip to Senegal, MHS students, like Thelander, may not have been able to communicate with the French-speaking population, who also speak their native Wolof, but left with an true understanding of what is needed.
"I understood before going onto this trip they needed all these things: school supplies, pencils, pens," the Larchmont resident said. "But going there and seeing that, wow. The kids come to class with nothing but an open mind to try to take in what the teachers tell them."
Thelander noted that students in the Lambaye village didn't have paper to write on, and had to memorize everything their teachers said. "One of the amazing things was the teachers had a wooden board that was just painted over black so they could write chalk on it."
Junior Samantha Meyerson, of Larchmont, was touched by how welcoming the Senegalese people were. "They deserve the world," she said. Myerson will never forget her new friends Fatou and Maya, whom she was paired up with by their English club for the entire trip.
"So many people are involved," said Kaitlyn Talt, a sophomore who signed up for Students for Senegal at Wednesday's club fair. "It seems like the most efficient club."
Another sophomore who signed up at the club fair, Anders Captuo, wants to help people and sees Students for Senegal as an opportunity to do just that.
The club's ultimate goal is raise $100,000 to build a community learning center. For more information on Students for Senegal, visit their website here .
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