Before Joseph Kebbie returned to his native Sierra Leone, he spoke of his year as an exchange student at Toledo Technology Academy in a speech at the U.S. State Department to his fellow KL-YES exchange students.

He spoke of the many lessons he had learned, and especially raved about his experience at TTA and living with Ted (Gladwyn) Richardson, a longtime science/technology teacher for Toledo Public Schools who has been with TTA since it opened.

Here is the part of Joseph's speech about TTA, a TPS magnet school that has students in grades 7th through 12th:

During International Education Week, I gave several presentations about my country of Sierra Leone, my culture, our food, clothes, Muslim holidays and so much more. The volunteering aspect of YES has greatly impacted me. I completed over 330 volunteer hours in my host community and volunteering enabled me to learn new skills and try new activities.

A big personal achievement was making it to the FIRST Robotics national competition with my team from Toledo Technology Academy that hadn't made it to nationals in over nine years. To finally make it to nationals during my exchange year was remarkable! Toledo Technology Academy didn’t just unlock my potential in STEM by building and programming robots on a team, but my school and my robotics team helped me believe in myself, helped me to see that I can do anything I set my mind to do. I have always been a student who is passionate about technology, and it was as if this school was built for me."

His praise was equally great for Mr. Richardson and his family.

"I lived with one of the most amazing American host families ever! They didn't just open their home to me, but they opened their hearts and showed me love. This was a love as if I had always been a part of their family. My host dad wasn't just the best host dad ever, he wasn't just the best student counselor, and he wasn't just the best alternative teacher who taught me how to construct and work with go-karts and alternative energy vehicles, he was one of my best friends and a true inspiration throughout my YES year. He supported me, he saw my potential, helped me develop a better sense of self, and directed me towards success by being the best Joseph I could be."

Gary Thompson, TTA director, said he wasn't surprised at the praise from Joseph..

"[Ted] is a superb teacher who understands how to engage students and transfer ownership of their success to them," says Mr. Thompson. "Ted has been a host father for many students and has traveled to their home countries to visit them and their families.

"All of his exchange students have been students at TTA and I have had the opportunity to watch them acclimate and grow in a culture foreign to them. This has a great deal to do with how Ted and his family integrate them into their home. All of his exchange students start calling him their Dad fairly early on in the process. Ted treats them like his biological family and they truly identify with that."

A number of TPS schools host exchange students during the school year because it allows Toledo students to see the benefits of a global experience.

"We have proved to people out there about the power of diversity!," Joseph told his fellow exchange students. "I have come to realize that there is power in diversity; people of different backgrounds coming together can help change misconceptions and prejudices in society. The blending of different cultures and the increase in understanding between 'opposing sides' is one of the most powerful tools to nurture peace and end those centuries’ long disputes that take our focus away from the real problems."

Posted on July 1, 2016