20 young women from several sub-Saharan African countries are learning about U.S. culture in Delaware this summer.
They’re called “SUSIs" – because the name of the State Department Program they’re participating in is called the Study of the U.S. Institutes for Student Leaders.
They’re being hosted by the University of Delaware’s Global Studies Program – and are visiting various local organizations during their five-week stay in the U.S.
This week they visited a summer camp run by Urban Promise, and the young women got a chance to talk to camp counselors, known as "street leaders." 24-year-old Marie Stephane talking to 18-year-old street leader Braycen Lenoir at People’s Settlement in Wilmington’s East Side neighborhood.
Lenoir serves as a role model for the youth.
“Once we’re gone – they’re what’s keeping up the next line," he said. "So I believe if all of us street leaders, if we’re great they’re stand on our shoulders and be greater. And the greater we are, the higher they can stand.”
Stephane is from Cote d’Ivoire – also known as the Ivory Coast – and part of the SISI program. Other participants hail from Kenya, Liberia, Zambia and Sierra Leone. The program is designed to help them better understand issues affecting U.S. culture, and utilize that knowledge in their home countries.
During Stephane's conversaiton with Lenoir, Lenoir also discussed his discipline models: strikes and gems. The gems, he says, get rewarded for their good behavior.
“All you guys get soda, you get Takis – because these kids love Takis," Lenoir said. "I don’t know, I’m more of a barbecue person but they love their Takis.”
Takis are spicy chips that are popular with the kids. It’s these sorts of cultural details the fellowship aims to expose the African women to, in the hope that they’ll take some of what they learned back to their home communities.
“In my country there are many orphans. They need love, they need us to care about them," Stephane said. "I think when I return to my country I will be more engaged in these kind of activities.”
Stephane also dreams of training girls back home in leadership and entrepreneurship.
The women are also visiting Atlanta, New York City, Washington, D.C. and Lancaster, Pennsylvania during their trip this summer.