Last month, as part of a trip arranged by the U.S. State Department, 15 students and three chaperones from the Republic of Congo, Ivory Coast and Niger visited Washington D.C., Chicago and Portland where they were hosted by the World Affairs Council for nine days. The students visited Grant High School and Africa House, the Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization’s community center for African refugees and their families on Northeast 102nd Avenue near Glisan Street.
The students were excited to be at Africa House and meet people who spoke French and Lingala, their home country languages, said Koffi Dessou, who spoke to the delegation. “They were confident when speaking about their countries and visions of becoming civil engineers, lawyers, judges, military officers, doctors, diplomats and professors,” said Dessou, the city’s equity training and education program coordinator for the Office of Equity and Human Rights. “They asked important questions to learn more about the successes, and challenges, and how people handled challenges in their leadership and community development work.”
However, their trip to Portland was not without controversy. Despite a pre-scheduled visit to Jesuit High School, they were turned away. Puzzling, since not only are none of the kids from countries with reported cases of Ebola, but Multnomah County Health Department officials were monitoring them. Jesuit administrators could have researched the former and be informed about the latter; however, they did neither, letting fear and ignorance trump common sense and science. Ironic the school widely considered smart did such a dumb thing. Like smart people, I guess smart schools can also do remarkably stupid things.