Amherst students to showcase trip to Africa on Wednesday 

  • Sene-Gambian Scholars eating Gambian style at the home of Baai Jaabang, a host family. SUBMITTED PHOTO

  • Sene-Gambian Scholars with their Senegalese hosts on a safari truck at the Bandia Nature Reserve in Senegal. SUBMITTED PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 4/4/2022 9:24:29 AM
Modified: 4/4/2022 9:23:51 AM

AMHERST — Over the three weeks in the winter that six Amherst Regional High School students were in Senegal and The Gambia, they experienced a new culture, found a welcoming atmosphere with host families and were fascinated by the perspectives their peers offered on the United States.

“The world seems very far apart, and everyone seems very different when we're in Amherst here,” says junior Ian Buchanan, one of the school’s Sene-Gambian Scholars who made the trip. “But I think when we got there, especially with our hosts, we saw how similar everyone was, and we shared so many interests, and it was really great getting to know our hosts and making friends across the world.”

Phoenix Ferreira-Ford, a senior who also went on the trip, said the students felt accepted and got new perspectives both on traveling and on African culture, “and really changed my life in general."

Buchanan and Ferreira-Ford will be among those offering reflections about their experiences during a presentation open to the public on Wednesday evening.

Starting at 7 p.m. in the high school cafeteria, they will discuss and showcase aspects of the trip that took them to places such as the Sifoe Senior Secondary School in Gunjur, The Gambia, where they planted a tree, riding a safari truck through the Bandia Nature Reserve in Senegal, and visiting the “Door of No Return" in the La Maison des Esclaves, also known as The House of Slaves, on Gorée Island, Dakar, Senegal 

They also got to see the “Never Again” human rights monument in The Gambia, where “Roots” author Alex Haley’s ancestor Kunta Kinte was kidnapped.

The presentation is a regular part of the mission of the group since its founding in 2008. The Sene-Gambian Scholars aim to increase knowledge of Africa, both at the schools and within the larger community, and promote understanding and respect across racial, ethnic and religious lines.

Those interested in attending should register in advance at To enter the cafeteria, the audience members will also have to provide proof of COVID vaccination and will be required to wear masks. Light refreshments will be served.

These Sene-Gambian Scholars became part of the fourth group to head to the region since the program began, a trip that was delayed by two years due to the pandemic. Amherst Regional students first traveled to the West African countries in 2013, and again in both 2016 and 2018.

Former teacher Bruce Penniman has helped coordinate the trips that give the students a feel for the cultures and languages of Senegal and The Gambia, and meet and exchange culture with other teens, some of whom will be coming to Amherst.

In late April, a contingent from Senegal is expected in town, Penniman said, while the Gambians are likely to come in 2023, with an expectation that fundraising will be done to support their visit.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at


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