Oakton College students embark on a fully-funded study abroad trip to Ghana

Five Oakton College students and alumni traveled to Ghana for a study abroad adventure. On June 7, students eagerly said goodbye to their familiar surroundings as they set off on an immersive educational odyssey.

“I’ve been abroad before, but I’ve never been to Africa,” said Emmanuel Rayford. “I think this experience will contribute to my personal development. I can’t wait to immerse myself in the culture, learn more about the country and meet new friends.”

From left to right: Robert McRay, Michael Jackson, Professor Olabisi Adenekan, Carol Anglin, Emmanuel Rayford and Ashley Dabney said goodbye to family, friends and supporters at the Oakton campus in Des Plaines. Loan: Oakton School

Rayford, a Skokie resident, is pursuing a business certificate in Oakton. He recently founded Primel Productions and hopes to build his portfolio of films and photos while in Ghana.

The initiative, run by Oakton’s study abroad program in partnership with EDU Africa, highlights the institution’s commitment to fostering global engagement and intercultural understanding. The goal of the program is to introduce diverse perspectives to the educational landscape.

“Many of our ancestors came from Ghana,” said Robert McRay of Evanston, who is pursuing certification as a human resources specialist. “I want to go and see where it all started. Taste and learn about Ghana’s rich history. I am active in the community and I want to be able to tell young men, especially young African-Americans, what I saw and what our ancestors went through to obtain what we take for granted.”

Rayford and McRay are students at the Emory Williams Academy for Black Men in Oakton, a program for historically underserved and underrepresented students that emphasizes targeted support for students who identify as Black men. Four of the five traveling students are participating in Oakton’s Building Sustainable African Culture and Knowledge student success program. The fifth student is an Oakton graduate who returned to participate in a study abroad program in Ghana.

For almost a month, students will be immersed in Accra, the vibrant capital of Ghana, while studying at the Legon campus of the University of Ghana. The group will be accompanied by Oakton English professor Olabisi Adenekan. The students enrolled in Ghanaian History and Culture and Ghanaian Literature courses taught by professors from the University of Ghana. The group will participate in a variety of local excursions, as well as two weekend trips to Cape Coast and the Volta region. Their itinerary offers a rich range of experiences, from visiting historic sites such as Cape Coast Castle to visiting Independence Square in Accra, providing an insight into Ghana’s path to independence and its post-colonial history.

“I have wanted to go to Ghana for a very long time,” said Ashley Dabney of Evanston, who is applying for an Associate in Applied Science in Nursing position. “I took a DNA test and discovered I had links to Ghana. I want to fully immerse myself in the culture, learn about the traditions and connect with the people of Ghana. I also want to learn more about slavery and how our ancestors came to the United States, even though that experience can be liberating. I want to take it all I can.