For Nigerian Children: Seeking Books, Dialogue, and a Desire to Learn…

February 24, 2009 at 11:08 pm 4 comments

posted by Dena Florczyk ’88, middle school teacher and founder/director of The Nigerian School Project

nspHello my fellow Bank Street Alumni,

For those of you interested in education in Africa you may be interested in my story.

Since graduating from Bank Street in 1988, I have been teaching Special Education in New Jersey. In 2004, after a trip to West Africa, I started a non-profit educational organization that provides teachers and school children in Nigeria with resources to teach and to learn. Traveling to Nigeria once a year, I have been able to accomplish a great deal. My projects have included purchasing textbooks and school supplies, sewing uniforms, building furniture, sponsoring university scholarships and building 3 school libraries. This past summer these schools received a shipment of over 6,500 books to fill their new libraries. I am especially excited about my latest project, the building of a school in the river community of Tomaro. This is incredibly exciting because it is this community’s very first secondary school.

dena_07In the 5 years that I have been traveling to Nigeria, my proudest moments are when I am in the company of the 3 students I am sponsoring in college. Ojo, is in his third year at the Nigerian Naval Academy. He is studying to be a sea captain. When I met him he was the first in his class at the Ireti Senior Grammar School. He was so shy he couldn’t even look at me. In a letter expressing his gratitude, he told me that with the opportunity I was giving him, he was “no longer afraid to dream”. His words are the fuel that keeps this project going. My other two college students are twins, Ruth and Rachel. One is studying accounting and the other acting. These girls, like my own children are the light of my life. In them I see that even under the toughest of circumstances the human spirit endures.

Nigeria is a very challenging country but what these students and teachers lack in resources is certainly not reflected in their desire to learn or to compete in an ever-changing world. Five years ago I never would have believed that such a small effort could make such a difference. Today, I believe more than ever the power each of us has to make a difference in the world.

Every year I travel to Nigeria I take another teacher with me. The experience for them and for the children they teach is life changing. If you are interested in such an experience please contact me. I am also looking to build more school libraries and, as such, am always looking for books. If you have books to donate or are interested in doing a book drive in your school to benefit Nigerian school children please contact me.

Please check out my website to see the work. I would love to hear your comments, especially from those who are interested in starting international projects like this one. I welcome the dialogue.


Dena Florczyk is a Teaneck Middle School teacher and photographer, as well as the founder and director of The Nigerian School Project, a non-profit educational organization that supports teachers and students in Nigeria, West Africa.

Entry filed under: dialogue, diversity, equity, international education, leadership, school reform.

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4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Rabin Nickens  |  March 2, 2009 at 7:05 am

    Hi Dena. This sounds great! The last time I was in Africa (in Ghana, to be specific) I was doing study abroad several years ago. I think teachers have a unique opportunity to travel (because we often have the time, at least during the summer) and to make a difference (because we have our pedagogical skills to contribute). Hope I can post a link on both my teacher blog and travel blog. Thanks for sharing!

  • 2. jonas grushkin  |  March 2, 2009 at 4:42 pm

    I am always amazed when a picture reaches deep and brings out an emotion and calls out “whoa, hang out a while, let me tell you a story.” That’s just what Dena’s pix do. Through her determination and love for the project and people of the Nigerian school she has created, she is an artist and an educational force that needs to be noticed. She is a role model for all of us who have ever had a dream and wished for good things to happen. Not only am I her brother but an appreciative artist who gets his inspiration from Dena’s inspiring imagery. Her school is a grand success. I continue to be amazed at her determination.

  • 3. Gloria Zelasco  |  March 2, 2009 at 7:44 pm

    I found your work inspiring. I would love to start a project in Latin America. any suggestions? I know that my educational background and my leadership skills would make a positive impact. Waiting for your response.

  • 4. Krista Kaiser  |  July 23, 2009 at 10:53 am

    You are, without a doubt, Dena, an amazing role model for young professionals who have yet, but in time, do as you do, to contribute heart and soul to a cause near and dear to their heart. I enjoyed reading your story and progresses, your love for learning and sharing, and your driven need to give knowledge and support to young children.

    Many wishes for continued accomplishments and lots of giving.


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Some of Our Past Bloggers

Alisa Algava ‘08, leader of a small Hudson Valley progressive school
Gloria Arenson ’58, psychotherapist
Bill Ayers ‘84, UIC professor, Chicago
Fred Baumgarten ‘84, writer/musician/naturalist/father
Keith Berman '03, founder/president of Options for College and Bank Street’s LinkedIn moderator
David Bowles ’08 (SFC ’93), museum educator at the Rubin Museum of Art
Elena Canaras ‘07, Special Education teacher, Hawaii
Virginia Casper, Bank Street faculty member
Jim Clay ‘88, director of a Washington DC Quaker preschool
Mary DeCamp Cotterall ‘87, Reading Specialist, Michigan
Judy Coven ’77, retired public school teacher and former Antioch University faculty member
Leslie Day '93, adjunct instructor at Bank Street and author of Field Guide to the Natural World of New York City
Mary Louise (Molly) Day ‘76, Lab School teacher, Chicago
Liezel de La Isla ‘99, Prague International School teacher
Diane Trister Dodge '70, founder and president of Teaching Strategies, Inc.
Meghan Dunn ’08, 3rd grade teacher, Brooklyn
Steven Evangelista ’01, co-director Harlem Link Charter School, NYC
Janine Fetters ‘02, Senior Associate of Parent Engagement at NACCRRA
Dena Florczyk '88, middle school teacher and founder/director of The Nigerian School Project
Hollee Freeman '94, writes about parenting issues for the alumni blog and was featured on BSCAA's April 2012 Career Panel
Ellen Galinsky '70, is President and Co-Founder of Families and Work Institute and author of Mind in the Making: The Seven Essential Life Skills Every Child Needs
Joanne Ruvolo Gannett ‘84, Columbia College art history professor, Chicago
Joan Goldstein ‘67, sociologist and educator
Margot Hammond, Director of the Center for Early Childhood Professionals
Carol Hillman ‘67, early childhood educator, author, and Long Trip co-leader
Pam Jones ‘05, Bank Street advisor and instructor
Lee Klinger Lesser ‘87, trainer for the Parent Services Project
Preminda Langer ‘97, teacher trainer
Claire Milam ’97, life coach, Austin, Texas
Rabin Nickens ‘03, Speaker, Trainer and Educational Consultant
Beth Norford ‘89, consultant and former School for Children teacher
Susy Ogden ‘97
Marion Palm ‘95, Leadership in the Arts alum, writing tutor, poet and singer
Jessica Poser, assistant professor of art education at UIC, Chicago
Jesse Pugh '76, BSCAA President
Meg Rauen ‘06, former Chicago elementary school teacher, NY
Linda Reing, Bank Street Director of Alumni Relations
Rosalind Rothman '62, retired NYC teacher and guidance counselor
Kyla Ryman '92/'97, educational coach and consultant
Ariel Sacks ‘06, middle school teacher, Brooklyn, NY
Linda Appleman (Guidall) Shapiro ‘81, psychotherapist and author
Barbara Silver ‘80, literacy consultant and former NYC first grade teacher
Andrea Penny Spencer, former Associate Dean of Academic Affairs at Bank Street
Debbie Stone ‘84, former teacher/co-director of High Valley School
Rachel Theilheimer ‘74, chair of teacher education at BMCC/CUNY
Theodore Timpson ’05, founder/president of Young Spirit Foundation
Eleanor Traubman '95, is Editor in Chief of Creative Times, a blog which promotes NYC's performing, visual and literary arts
Allison Warren '08, new mom, recent grad, and early childhood teacher
Max Weinberg ‘03, Francis Parker School teacher, Chicago
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