Veleta Jenkins is a native of Gary, Indiana. She is a former teacher and taught English / Reading in public schools, charter schools, and the Dayton Job Corps Center. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Communications from Indiana University and a master's degree in Educational Leadership from Wright State University. Ms. Jenkins is the founder & CEO of Library for Africa. LFA is a non-profit organization that provides educational resources and services to youth Dayton, Ohio and Liberia, Africa.
During my last four years of teaching, an influx of students from African countries were assigned to my class. The students, aged 17-21, came from Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Sudan, Sierra Leon, Senegal, Somalia, Cameroon, Uganda, and Liberia. About 95% of the students lacked basic literacy skills. It was challenging for those who could not read, write, or speak English. Their lack of English comprehension and technology skills was a barrier to academic success.
This was my first time teaching non-American students and many of my colleagues and I did not know how to communicate and adjust curriculum to meet the students’ academic needs. The school did not offer any type of professional development, and for a long time there was no ESL (English as a Second Language) teacher.
For a short period of time, I was perturbed that I received no training on how to relate to the students. Due to this feeling of being “perturbed” I did not give the students the best of me. However, when I saw how disciplined, focused, and eager the students were to learn; my mindset shifted; and I was receptive to trying my best to offer the students equitable educational opportunities that the American students were afforded.
Recognizing that many of the students were having difficulty navigating the American school system, I realized how crucially important it is to embrace equity, inclusion, and diversity in the learning environment. It was my responsibly to work to the best of my ability to serve all my students. Regardless of race, creed, color, or nationality.
In 2019, I resigned from teaching and founded the Library for Africa organization. Presently, LFA is making plans to build the “first” public library in Liberia, Africa (Monrovia).
Planting a Seed Where There’s a Need
Ms. Jenkins wishes Obama's son and other African students success. Day before graduation.