For the first time in school history, a group of engineering students from Booker T. Washington High School’s Leadership Academy traveled to Zimbabwe for a global leadership exchange program to help improve the country’s infrastructure.
Seventeen students, ranging from freshmen to seniors, and eight staff members departed from Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport Monday, June 5, for a 10-day collaborative project that has been nearly seven years in the making between Washington High School and Zimbabwe’s Rydings College.
“Seeing this come to fruition was a big accomplishment for our team considering all the work that went into this,” said Washington High School class of 2023 valedictorian Rebecca Stansell. “There were a lot of presentations and talking to stakeholders, so once we arrived, I felt a breath of relief.”
After hosting nearly 50 exchange students from Zimbabwe in March of 2017 for a collaborative learning project focused on science and technology, the Washington High School students wanted to find new ways to help.
“We wanted to discover new ways to enhance available resources through alternative energy and water purification.” said Stansell. “We used our water filtration device, which is 3D printed with multiple components, to filter out water and solar panels to provide a source of alternative energy that could be relied upon.”
Washington High School was originally planning to visit Rydings College in November of 2017, but Hurricane Harvey and the global pandemic put the humanitarian collaboration on pause. Despite some setbacks, the aspiring engineers and their supporters never lost sight of their goal and continued to fundraise and present to potential stakeholders who would potentially be interested in helping sponsor the program.
“In over the seven years, it was important that we kept our relationships strong to let people know who initially invested in us that the work is continuing,” said Principal Dr. Carlos Phillips II. “We had to raise almost $51,000 in a month to make this thing work. Parents, stakeholders, and a lot of huge names that backed this project was also a supportive piece to allow others to invest in the work of our students so that they can be a part of an amazing experience like this.”
In addition to collaborative learning, Washington High School students also had the opportunity to experience a new culture and learn new things from their Zimbabwean peers.
“Interacting with all the different students and people our age was fun—and trying different foods,” said freshman Kameron Lavalais. “We did our work and got what we needed to do done and made sure we had fun while there.”
To learn more about Washington High School’s engineering program, click here.