Two-week trip to Africa strengthens global, educational, civic ties

by Diane Demuynck

What began as a willingness and enthusiasm to explore educational linkages between Hudson Middle School and Orkeeswa Secondary School in Tanzania, Africa, has blossomed into an international partnership.

In July, a cadre of local residents and educators spent two weeks on a professional development expedition to the African high school. Those making the trip included Ken and Hyla Cushner, Marc Zustin, Sarah Restifo, Beth and Molly Killeen, Monica and Kylie Streby, and Gaberialle Elliot. The group, armed with educational tools, experience and suitcases full of teaching material, imparted project-based learning and holistic teaching techniques, psychological support and athletic training. 

Local educators and residents show their support for the Explorers during a summer trip to Africa, where they exchanged learning tactics with instructors at a school in Tanzania and met a student supported by donations from Hudson students and staff.

“There are no words to describe what it is like being apart of the Orkeeswa community and the town of Monduli,” said Elliot, a 2019 Hudson High School graduate who conducted a high school spelling bee at the African school and helped the students with their basketball skills. “The people are amazing, proud and truly grateful for everything they have. I feel strongly connected to the school because of the genuine friendships I developed with the students and staff. I am forever thankful for this opportunity.”

Zustin, a Hudson High School psychology teacher, worked closely with the school’s guidance counselor to create a psychology club for the students. He also worked directly with the U16 Tanzanian Girls National Basketball team developing athletic skills.

Zustin’s wife, Restifo, an art teacher in Canton, assisted students in painting a mural on a local preschool. Hudson Middle School Guidance counselor Monica Streby worked with the Orkeeswa guidance counselor as well, devising strategies to relieve stress and avoid burnout that Orkeeswa students can use daily. She also collaborated with other support staff on understanding cultural differences and offering information in grief and trauma.

Monica’s daughter, Kylie, a nurse, evaluated the students’ health, treated ailments and educated them on hygiene. Hudson Middle School language arts teacher Beth Killeen and her daughter, Molly, incorporated a variety of teaching strategies into lessons with students and shared information about project-based learning and readers and writers workshop with teachers.

Hudson High School graduate Kylie Streby works with Orkeeswa students on a reading lesson. Photos courtesy of Monica Streby

“I have been teaching for 11 years and this trip shot a new level of energy into my veins educationally,” Zustin said. “It gave me so much more than I expected and most of all it gives me a great hope for the future.”

Molly Killeen said she was “particularly moved by the young women.”

“Against many odds these ladies are paving the way for the next generation of Tanzanian women and changing their future,” she said.

The Africa trip was just the latest connection between the two communities, which began four years ago when Ken and Hyla Cushner’s grandsons, who attended Hudson Middle School at the time, spoke about their 2015 visit to a Tanzanian school with their grandparents. In an area where many do not receive an education past the fifth grade, the Orkeeswa Secondary School is allowing boys and girls an opportunity to develop critical thinking skills that have a positive impact on their family and village.

Since that time, in addition to the academic cooperation, Ellsworth Hills Elemenatry, Hudson Middle School and Hudson High School have held fundraisers to support scholarships for the Orkeeswa students. Each school sponsors a child who without funding would not receive an education. Fourteen-year-old Katlyn Unke raised $800 to fill suitcases with personal care products and solar lights so Orkeeswa students can complete their homework at night.

Local spirit wear maker RDP Sports donated new basketball uniforms and other athletic wear to the school, and several Hudson families have individually donated funds to send a child to the school or support educational programming there.  

Anyone interested in making a donation to the school or sponsoring a student can contact Cushner at, Killenn at, or Streby at

Featured image photo caption: Monica Streby (l) and Beth Killeen (r) of Hudson Middle School explore the art of students at Orkeeswa Secondary School in Tanzania, Africa, with HMS-sponsored student Witness Julius. They were part of a team of local residents and educators who spent two weeks this summer at the school, which serves teens from four villages.
Photo courtesy of Monica Streby