Periclean Scholars offer life skills workshops during work in Zambia

The Winter Term program is the culminating project for the Class of 2018 Periclean Scholars, who spent two weeks in Cipulukusu in Zambia.   

By Noah Zaiser ‘20

A group of nine Periclean Scholars spent two weeks in Zambia in January as the culmination of a Project Pericles effort designed to help local students there learn about goal planning, decision-making and financial literacy.

Led by Professor of English Stephen Braye, the senior cohort of Periclean Scholars spent their Winter Term focused on providing leadership and life skills resources to local teenagers and young adults living in Cipulukusu, Ndola, a Zambian community where less than 5 percent of the adult population has permanent employment.

Preparation began early, with Braye noting that the experience in Zambia was two-and-a-half years in the making. “The students made it a point to educate themselves as much as possible,” Braye said, including researching non-governmental organizations, a multitude of non-profit organizations and the Peace Corps as they worked to develop lesson plans to use when in Zambia.

Upon arrival, the group immediately began holding leadership workshops for more than 40 young adults in the area, with attendance exceeding capacity on occasion. “Students wanted to pilots, work in the medical field — you name it,” Braye said. “Our job was to give them a leadership resource to get started”.

Lesson plans included working with the attendees to identify their own dreams and goals, while explaining the distinction between the two. The Elon students offered guidance on how to find ways to find connections to begin their written plans, and how to be leaders of their peers. Financial lessons were also provided in saving money, no matter how small the amount.

The second week saw the Periclean Scholars working side-by-side with six of their students from the week before to help instill these lessons to a group of 30 10- to 14-year-olds in the community.

The Elon cohort’s goal for the project revolved around the impact of guidance. The core of the Zambia experience was to be a helpful resource to attendees so that the young adults who participated can to rely on this newfound knowledge as they build the best careers for themselves.

Project Pericles, launched at Elon in 2002 and supported by the Eugene Lang Foundation, works to provide university students with a learning experience that will instill in them “an abiding sense of social responsibility and civic concern.” At Elon, Periclean Scholars are selected during their first year and participate in a series of courses that culminates in a class project designed to foster global social change.

Braye previously led Periclean Scholars in Zambia and said the work there this year and in past years offers a meaningful experience in a place that is very unfamiliar to many Elon students. “Challenge yourself,” Braye said. “The easiest thing to do would be to stay in the world I’m in. Every time I go, I come back a better person.”

The potential impact from the work the Periclean Scholars performed and the connections they made is broad, according to Braye. The goal is that the workshops will continue to be taught going forward by the students the group trained, with the hope that as many of 10,000 young adults in the Chipulukusu community will participate in the training.

“The mission was to provide service to other people, and reflect and learn about the impact on us,” Braye said. “We were lucky to do and discover exactly what we came to find.”