BHSU students inspire teenagers in Africa through service learning program

Author: BHSU Communications/Thursday, December 15, 2016/Categories: 2016

Katelyn Woten, professional accountancy major from Potter, Neb. facilitates a leadership exercise with teenagers in Botswana, Africa. Woten and 16 other Black Hills State University Students completed the University's International Service Learning Program in Botswana recently.

Students at Black Hills State University returned from Botswana, a country in southern Africa, recently where they worked to empower and inspire local children through an International Service Learning Program.

The group of 17 BHSU students facilitated people skills and leadership education sessions with 250 teenagers ages 15-19 years at the Gaborone Secondary School in Botswana. As part of the BHSU International Service Learning Program (ISLP), the college students had spent the semester in the classroom preparing for their experience overseas.

Dr. Jane Klug, dean of students at BHSU who accompanied the students to Africa, said the program promotes personal development and knowledge by providing a unique opportunity for students to address human and community needs on a global scale.

"There were many special moments. From the students realizing that they made some very special connections with the high school students, to connecting with teachers and staff at the school, to seeing an elephant or giraffe for the first time outside of a zoo, was amazing," said Klug.

The BHSU students spent several days mentoring teenagers at the Secondary School, working in five classrooms to empower and inspire the students. In the reflections of the college students after returning to the U.S., the true purpose of service learning is apparent-a reciprocal exchange of culture, ideas, and learning.

"We learned from them more than we taught them," said Karin Humar, business administration-marketing major from Slovenia. "Against all odds they are fighters with big dreams."

Wyatt Osthus, English major from Summerset, said he was impacted by the music and faith that was a strong part of the teenager's culture in Botswana.

"I'll never forget when our classroom sang a gospel in their native language, Setswana. The song was so beautiful and there was so much passion and conviction when they sang," said Osthus.

Klug and Humar also said music and dance was a special gift the students shared with the BHSU students, their teachers, to express their emotions, goals, beliefs, and faith.

"Through music and dance they let us in, and I must say that I've never felt anything as genuine in my life," said Humar. "Their culture is not westernized. It comes from their hearts in a unique form. Never before have I understood so well what it means to speak from the heart."

In addition to their work at Gaborone Secondary School, the BHSU students visited a child care center in South Africa where they interacted with 30 children all under the age of five. The center was built on a site previously used as a waste disposal site. Thanks to the determination of the center's owner, who always wanted to do something different with the disposal site, the center now provides children three meals a day and keeps them off the street where they could be exposed to disease, crime and negative influences.

Humar said this example of hope showed her that it doesn't take much to make a substantial and lasting change in the world.

"After experiencing love and joy from the people that we met in South Africa and Botswana, I can say that I value the opportunities I've been given more than I did before," said Humar. "We all have our own struggles. Nonetheless, I've learned in the classroom where we taught the high school students, that our values and dreams are not that different."

Osthus said he's certain the international experience through BHSU will benefit his career and that it will set him apart from other job applicants in the future.

"It shows that you took initiative and that you're curious about the world outside of the bubble you may have grown up in," said Osthus.

All are invited to hear more about the BHSU students' ISLP experience during a special program Monday, Jan. 30 at 4 p.m. in the Student Union Jacket Legacy Room.

Another group of BHSU students will participate in ISLP this spring with travel to the Philippines. To find out more about international service learning or study abroad at BHSU, visit

Students who participated in ISLP Botswana included:
  • Druanna Barzeski, Spanish education major from Philadelphia
  • Dakota Becher, English major from Plattsmouth, Neb.
  • Courtney Dahlgren, biology major from Timber Lake
  • Carissa Deming, music education major from Newcastle, Wyo.
  • Jessica Gramm, business administration-tourism major from Burlington, Colo.
  • Karin Humar, business administration-marketing major from Slovenia
  • Brady Jones, mass communication major from Spearfish
  • Keely Kleven, political science major from Williston, N.D.
  • Garrett Kohler, psychology major from Lead
  • Jared Kovall-Scarlett, business administration-management major from Rapid City
  • D'Aryn Lends His Horse, chemistry major from Eagle Butte
  • Mikenzie Mikkelson, chemistry major from Belle Fourche
  • Wyatt Osthus, English major from Summerset
  • Bailey Sadowsky, corporate communications and graphic design communication major from Hettinger, N.D.
  • Richard Walbe, mass communication major from Deadwood
  • Nichole Walters, human service and sociology major from Spearfish
  • Katelyn Woten, professional accountancy major from Potter, Neb.

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