Margaret Leak '15 Helps Transform School in Ethiopia

Margaret Leak ‘15 spent her summer a significant distance away from her home in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. She traveled to the thriving city of Addis Ababa to teach math to Ethiopian students through the nonprofit organization Cherokee Gives Back.

However, when Leak arrived, she realized that her supervisor had something different in store for her. “What are you passionate about, Margaret?” asked Hareg Gerusu, the principal of Destiny Academy. “Teaching and making teachers better,” Leak responded; her answer immediately changed the direction of her summer.

Leak and a Destiny Academy student rest on the steps after a rigorous game of soccer in the schoolyard.

Together, Gerusu and Leak composed a list of five goals they wanted the school to accomplish: 1) making the classrooms more engaging, 2) training the teachers how to use a computer, 3) enhancing students’ and teachers’ English, 4) teaching the instructors how to reflect, 5) and assessing the school’s progress toward these initiatives. These goals were an ambitious undertaking for five weeks, but the pair believed that they could accomplish what they set out to do and transform Destiny Academy in the process.

While the work was challenging, Leak was motivated by her primary purpose — to meet the needs of Destiny Academy. Every day she woke up with the desire to serve the students and teachers of the school, and she was encouraged by the relationships she developed with the instructors at the school.

“I think everyone should have the opportunity to see a different part of the world, develop relationships with people from different cultures, and live their dream,” says Leak. “Spending time in Africa has been my dream and teaching is my passion, and I now know what it means to have this dream become reality.”

Leak is pursuing degrees in mathematics education and communication, along with a minor in Spanish. She intends to return to the African continent one day and would like to continue her work with Gerusu at Destiny Academy. Until then, she wants to spread the word about Cherokee Gives Back and become the best mathematics teacher she can be.