November 16, 2023

Hi there TTS39 friends and family,

It’s a pleasure to write to you. We are currently two days into our four-day stay at the African Leadership Academy – a boarding school in Johannesburg, South Africa, which brings together African students aged 16 to 19 for two years pre-college. As you know, each of our students is paired with an ALA student, their “ALA buddy,” hailing from diverse countries across the continent, including Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Côte d’Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and many others! With a total representation of 46 countries, it’s quite remarkable. The campus buzzes with art, lively debates, activism showcases, sports, and an abundance of student-led entrepreneurial activities. The energy and passion the students exhibit throughout their day are palpable and incredibly inspiring. For more information, check out the website—it’s an extraordinary project! https://www.africanleadershipacademy.org/

During our stay, students have the opportunity to attend various classes, including African Studies, History, a photography course, and they are engaged in a science project facilitated by one of the school’s science teachers. This project followed a specific design process called Engineering Design where students followed the sequence: Ask, Imagine, Plan, Create, Improve – to create a solution to an issue created by climate change. Their end results were AMAZING. From water filters to carbon sequestration through wetlands in neighborhoods, their inner innovators really shined. 

Alas, we’re squeezing in TTS classes whenever possible while fully immersing ourselves in the enriching school and social experiences. Our arrival in South Africa launched our History class into its final unit on Apartheid. In the Cederbergs, we delved into South Africa’s pre-Apartheid history, setting the stage to comprehend the country’s dynamics that eventually led to Apartheid. Much of this history came alive upon reaching Cape Town, exploring the city, taking a guided tour of Robben Island (where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 18 years during Apartheid), spending time at the District 6 museum (once a vibrant Cape Coloured neighborhood dismantled due to the Group Areas Act), and embarking on a comprehensive city tour with Toni – a long-time TTS community liaison. During this tour, students witnessed for themselves the lingering impacts of Apartheid on the city (such as segregation, vast unemployment, and high crime rates in certain black townships) and absorbed the many stories he shared about life during Apartheid. 

Tomorrow, we head to the Apartheid Museum to keep learning about these dynamics in South Africa. It will be intriguing to examine Apartheid in the context of Johannesburg versus Cape Town, offering students an opportunity to ask questions and interact with individuals who lived through that era in this region. Although our History class extensively covered Apartheid, Literature is also delving into its impacts through the characters in the book, Coconut, and exploring racial dynamics in literature. I had the chance to briefly attend a Socratic seminar on the book—a proud teacher moment witnessing their thoughtful and confident analysis! Also, we’ve just commenced our final unit in Global Studies: “Identity, Power, and Sovereignty,” which will undoubtedly circle back to race politics in southern Africa and the United States. Simultaneously, the science project at ALA initiated their last unit on Climate Change, which will culminate in a group project for their finals. Stats is currently immersed in their unit and hinting at a couple more Stats projects before their final assessment as well. The last month of academics is certainly no joke, and I think all of us teachers are still excited and dedicated to the continued learning that is taking place.

Here are some photos of some recent outings, campus visit in Cape Town, dinner with their ALA buddies, and some student work from the aforementioned projects. 

Click for larger images:


Our group wrote this poem together on the flight from Cape Town to Joburg. Please enjoy! 


White clouds 

Puff up, like

Your inhale 


Blue skies

Stretch on

Like the Tinkies in my empty stomach


Jungle Oats wrapper

Purple pen in hand, I write 


“The Psychology of Stupidity,” I read

My breath, noise-less


The plan roars, Marley snores 

Unbound and limitless, we fly 


James Taylor sings 

And I listen 



Land whisked away below me

Feet too far off the ground


RRQ’s due tonight, 

Better get workin’ 


The empty seat in between Lilla and I 

A communal space filled with our text

Books and a green MP3 player 


My bladder filled while dreaming about a restroom

But fear to wake the lovely sleeping Arden 



I cannot sleep 

But i pretend that I am 

We love to show up as our best selves 

Coffee drank, jazzed up on jungle oats, sleepy eyes. 


We fly. 


Our best! 

Meredith Nass, History Teacher