Amarillo College Scholars to explore South Africa during Spring Break

A visit to the prison on Robben Island where Nelson Mandela spent 18 of his 27 years behind bars – with some of his former cell mates serving as tour guides – awaits Amarillo College Presidential Scholars who will travel to South Africa over Spring Break.

“I can’t wait for the first-person perspectives of the tour guides,” AC freshman Leah Aviles, an international business major, said. “How amazing is it that we’ll get to hear the insights of people who spent time with and actually knew such an influential and inspiring person?”

The 12-day, service-learning sojourn begins March 8 and fulfills the promise of unique travel opportunities afforded AC’s Presidential Scholars.

Seventeen AC Scholars will make the trip to Cape Town, South Africa, where they also plan to promote literacy and interact with hundreds of young children.

In preparing for their service-learning endeavor, the Scholars have extensively researched the demographics and history of the area, studied Apartheid, and read and discussed Mandela’s autobiography “Long Walk to Freedom.”

“Each of our travelers is taking 20 pounds of books featuring people of color to hand out to about 400 children we’ll be working with at different elementary schools and daycares,” said Leslie Ingham, coordinator of the Presidential Scholars program.

“We are also bringing deflated soccer balls and pumps to donate and enjoy with the children there.”

In addition to Ingham, AC faculty making the journey are President Russell Lowery-Hart and Dr. Michelle Orcutt. Joining the group from West Texas A&M University will be Dr. Enyonam Osei-Hwere, director of graduate studies in the Department of Communication, who earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Science and Technology in Ghana, West Africa.

Among other activities on the Scholars’ itinerary are an overnight safari at the Aquila Game Reserve, a visit to the U.S. Consulate, a peninsular tour for a glimpse of penguins on Boulder Bay - with a stop at Seal Island – and the experience of a sunset on famed Table Mountain.

AC freshman Dominic Narvaez, a mathematics major with a love of history, is excited about the upcoming adventure for a couple of reasons: This will be his first time to fly, and he very much looks forward to seeing Mandela’s longtime prison in person.

“We read all about it, of course, but I think you have to visit a place like the prison in person to fully appreciate what happened there, to truly understand the reality of the hardships Mandela went through,” Narvaez said. “I’m really looking forward to the first-hand accounts of men who were political prisoners with him.

“I’m not sure about the flying part of it, this being my first time on a plane and all, but it’s not a short flight and I guess I’ll have plenty of time to get used to it.”