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Psychology Major Pursues Teaching Internship in West Africa

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Jessica Comola

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Jenna Cutler

Jenna Cutler, a senior majoring in psychology, spent the summer working one-on-one with elementary school students in Ghana, Africa. As a volunteer teacher with The Anidaso Nsae Foundation (TANF), Cutler spent most of her time teaching second grade in a small fishing village called Senya and spent afternoons working at the local orphanage.

Based in Accra, the capital city of Ghana, TANF is dedicated to empowering children through education, healthcare and hope. “Anidaso,” which translates to “hope,” is a central tenet of the organization, founded by a local Ghanaian who received a strong education and sought ways give back to his community.

“I was able to teach both math and reading to second grade students, all of whom were at different levels in their educational journey,” Cutler said. “Being able to work one-on-one with students was an extremely valuable experience because it truly shows that each child learns in their own, unique way.”

Cutler continued, “Whether it was just having a conversation or helping students with the subjects they were struggling with at school, seeing [the children’s] ability to warm up to me and develop relationships was incredible.”

This range of teaching experiences helped Cutler understand differences in teaching and learning styles, as well as the impact of interactions between human beings. As a psychology major, this real-world education has been invaluable.

“Our world is full of interactions and relationships, so being able to better understand human development and interaction has been an interest of mine for a long time.”

A recipient of DU’s Sturm Family Foundation Summer Internship Award, Cutler received financial support for her internship through DU’s Career and Professional Development Center. Ten awards of $3,400 each were given to CAHSS undergraduates volunteering a minimum of 200 hours with a nonprofit organization.

“Being able to have an internship that is unpaid allows you to apply the knowledge you have learned in the classroom to reality,” said Cutler, who plans to participate in Teach for America after graduation. “My internship this summer allowed me to teach in the classroom and better understand a learning environment.”

The value of experiences like these goes beyond the traditional classroom, Cutler reminds undergraduates seeking similar opportunities. She encourages current and incoming DU students to explore their options in order to find what makes them happy. 

“Balance is incredibly important and in our society today it is incredibly easy to get lost in things that are not as important. Grades are important, but they will only go so far. Take time to explore and try new things because once you graduate things get a lot harder!”

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