J A M E S. B. M A T T I S O N '99
The following feature story appeared in the campus publication MOSAIC in September, 1998.
ENGINEERING THE CREATION OF A SCHOOL IN GHANA
James B. Mattison ’99 is both a dreamer and a doer. In the summer of 1997, Mattison indulged his curiosity about the world and trekked to Techiman, Ghana, in western Africa to visit the adopted 中国体彩发布的官方appland of an uncle. By going to Africa, Mattison hoped to experience a developing nation firsthand, to be a minority for the first time in his life, and get to know a place a world away from the one he knew. In discovering this new world, Mattison immediately recognized a major problem facing its children: the lack of adequate elementary education. His reaction? Start a school.
During his visit with his uncle, Wilfred Owen, and his Ghanian wife, Mattison learned that Techiman doesn’t have the economic resources to support an adequate educational system; existing schools are overcrowded and private schools are either too far away or too expensive — and thus not an option for most. Mattison’s uncle and aunt had experienced this inadequacy with the education of their own children. When Mattison expressed interest in finding a solution to the problem by starting a new school, Owen agreed to donate a vacant building he owns for the project. By using the building, plus Mattison’s own funds and those contributed by Trinity and the College community, Mattison has made it possible for 30 children, aged 4-7, to be sitting in a classroom this fall at the Ayisatu Owen Day-Nursery school where they are being taught by local residents.
When Mattison traveled to Techiman, a town of 80,000 people in central Ghana, his intention was to immerse himself in the everyday life of a place quite different from that of his 中国体彩发布的官方apptown of Old Lyme, CT. “Being in the thick of things,” observing the way people cope with the prospect of disease and starvation every day, was his goal, he says. During his monthlong stay, Mattison had many eye-opening experiences, but one in particular captured his attention. “There were just so many kids walking around with no school to go to,” he recalls. “I wondered why.” Wanting to deal with the dilemma, Mattison turned to his uncle and his wife to aid in his efforts to help the people he was getting to know.
“For One World”
Eager to find a solution to this gap in Techiman’s educational system, Mattison returned to Hartford and began mobilize his efforts. Last year he formed “For One World,” a non-profit, student-run organization with Trinity and non-Trinity students, faculty and administrators, and community and business contacts in Hartford. Ayisatu and Wilfred Owen serve as project coordinators in Ghana. The immediate goal of the organization is “to offer quality elementary education to children in Techiman. . . promoting both local and international community involvement through volunteer work, while providing diverse economic, social and educational benefits in a culturally respectful manner.”
With the school set to open this month, Mattison hopes the organization’s Web site () will enable him to reach a larger audience, generate more interest and support, and ultimately permit expansion into an elementary school. In the meantime, the project will receive hands-on support from Hartford and Trinity in its inaugural year. For example, Kimberly B. Mendell ’99, who is spending a semester abroad in Ghana, will spend a month at the school and work as an assistant to the teachers there. In addition, Mattison hopes that the faculty of the Greater Hartford Academy of the Performing Arts, who will participate in an interactive teaching exchange with Ghanian teachers in a nearby region next summer, will visit and aid in the development of the school. Mattison’s plan also calls for the day-nursery school to offer internships to Trinity students studying abroad in Africa.
Associate Academic Dean J. Ronald Spencer, who is serving on the advisory board for the project, says, “James Mattison’s “For One World” is a very imaginative kind of enterprise. It points out a certain amount of initiative and civil consciousness on his part. What he’s trying to do is admirable in every way. He has gone about this with thoroughness and care that show a tenacity and commitment which speak well of him.”
A NASA Fellowship
With the demands of an economics and engineering double major, his leadership role in the Ghana school project, and the constant negotiations and planning required to establish the school, it is impressive to know Mattison has found the time to pursue other interests while also earning faculty honors. Last spring he submitted a proposal to the Connecticut Space Grants College Consortium, outlining ways to use NASA technology to solve problems experienced by small business, and was awarded a $2,000 Connecticut Space Grant Undergraduate Fellowship to turn his ideas into reality. This year he expects to continue to explore these concepts as well as participate in intramural basketball and soccer.
What does this humanitarian see himself doing after graduating from Trinity? Mattison admits that spending this past summer working as an intern at Andersen Consulting in Hartford, where he helped to design computer systems that will facilitate the deregulation of New England’s utility companies, makes the prospect of working for the consulting firm very appealing. The broad and international scope of the company’s operations (which include some in Ghana) would clearly help to satisfy Mattison’s curiosity about the world. And the opportunity to apply innovative, cutting-edge technology to solve business problems also intrigues him. “Working for Andersen would be ideal,” he says.
–Jocelyn M. Jones ’99