LIer raising funds to help students from Gambia achieve college dreams
A Long Islander who helped teens from Gambia achieve their high school diplomas is now working to help them continue their education at colleges in the United States.
Ashleigh Deluca, of Glen Cove, shared memories of teaching English to sixth-graders in Gambia 10 years ago. She says parents there often pull their kids out of school due to financial reasons, and so they could help out at home.
"Your priority was not school, school was a luxury. Your first priority was to keep the family surviving," she says.
Deluca recalls noticing a group of 13-year-olds who were dedicated to their studies despite their responsibilities at home. "When everything was done and their work was done as a family member, they would take a candle, light the candle, and sit in the corner of their room and they'd do their homework by candle light," she says.
It was their drive that inspired Deluca to become the founder of the Starling Sponsorship Program. It helped three teens, Adama Jarju, his sister Awa and friend Penda Jallow, achieve their high school diplomas.
The three students have now gotten accepted into American colleges, and Deluca hopes to raise enough funds for their tuition. The three plan on studying nursing, hotel management and computer sciences if they can raise enough money for tuition, and then hope to use those degrees to help their communities back home.
"After graduation, I dream of coming back to my country to help build computer labs in Gambia," says Adama Jarju.
"I used to tell my grandmother I always dreamed of going to the United States to study and what she told me was, 'Oh, that dream is just for the men,'" says Awa. "I hope my dream will come to reality."