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Hartnell College Students Explore Culture of West African Nation

July 3, 2002

Four Hartnell College students recently studied the arts and culture of Ghana, but it wasn't in a traditional classroom. They viewed the West African nation "up close and personal" by spending 10 days there. The students were part of Hartnell's Boronda International Study Program.

"It was a mind-opening, enriching experience for the students and everyone on the trip," said Carl Christensen, Hartnell music faculty member who was the program's instructor.

The students, all from Salinas, were Ryan Alvarez, Sarah Jackson Bannwart, Angie Martinez and Paul Sallabedra. Accompanying them and Christensen was Bill Fellner, animal health technology instructor who was the trip's coordinator.

In Accra, Ghana's capital, and the surrounding area, the students studied the country's traditional art forms, including textiles and drumming. They also visited museums and the University of Ghana's School of Performing Arts, according to Christensen.

Hartnell's Boronda International Study Program was established by Lester Boronda, a Monterey County artist who wanted to honor the memory of his parents, Sylvano and Maria Boronda. In his will, Lester stated that the recipients of international study scholarships must be "students of unusual promise in the arts," and should study in international centers around the world.

Since 1985, the Boronda International Study Program has sent students to many different countries around the world, including Japan, Taiwan, Hungary, China, England, Spain, Mexico and Guatemala.

The trip to Ghana was educational and exciting for students on several different fronts.

Ryan Alvarez, who is transferring this fall from Hartnell to UCLA's prestigious School of Film and Television and wants to pursue a career in the movie industry, was able to view Ghana's locally produced films.

Another student, Angie Martinez, a flutist and painter, was "amazed" how the people of Ghana help out each other. "Rich and poor families live in the same neighborhoods. There's a real sense of community," she said.

Paul Sallabedra, a singer who received his associate of arts degree in music from Hartnell in May, enjoyed the cultural aspects of the trip, but will never forget walking above a rain forest on bridge made of rope.

For Sarah Jackson Bannwart, the Ghana experience was "eye opening." A singer who is studying music at Hartnell, Bannwart was impressed with the important role that music plays in Ghana. "One day," she said, "we heard fishermen singing as they pulled in their nets. Music is everywhere." She was so taken by the trip she wants to return to the University of Ghana someday to study the performing arts.

Christensen said before the students made the trip to Ghana they enrolled in a semester-long class in which they studied the country's art, culture and history.