Leticia Ababio Nortey, founder and executive director of a nonprofit called Expanding Boundaries International, Inc. (EBI), was born in Ghana.

“My parents moved here in the eighties, but I joined them in 2002 to start high school at the age of 15,” Nortey said.

Ahead of Thanksgiving, Nortey reflected on growing up in the vibrant culture of Ghana where food served as a powerful unifying community force. 

“Regardless of religious affiliation, whether it was Christmas or Easter for Christians, or Salat for Muslims, the neighborhood would be filled with the tantalizing aroma of a variety of dishes. This shared experience of food transcended all barriers of faith and tradition, binding us together in a tapestry of communal harmony,” Nortey said.

As a newcomer in America, Nortey was introduced to the Thanksgiving tradition and its power of bringing people together. She currently has a tradition of cooking jollof rice and sharing it with some of her community friends, their families and hosting international food tastings in December to bring her community together.

In a time when the importance of unity and tolerance are greatly needed, Nortey’s cultural experiences may remind us that we can learn from each other, regardless of cultural origin. 

Team USA’s students Ramah, Naimah and Amira Olaniyi-Yusuf and students in Ghana participate in a STEAM Exchange while learning about the anatomy of a computer system.
Photo credit: (USA picture) Olaniyi Yusuf, (Ghana) Raymond Tefe

She used a computer for the first time in the United States and later became an Information Security Analyst, after graduating from Morgan State University in 2010. However, Nortey did not keep her cross-cultural experiences all to herself.

“My journey to starting Expanding Boundaries International (EBI) began in 2008 when I first traveled to China as a first-generation African student. I was among the first few students who embarked on a study abroad journey at Morgan State,” Nortey said. 

Upon her return from international travel and a cross-cultural experience, a follow-up project from a Gilman International Scholarship led her to discover a need to break the stigma surrounding studying abroad, particularly among minority communities. 

“I was surprised by how many people felt that such an experience was beyond their reach simply due to misconceptions or societal embargoes. It was this realization that planted the seed for EBI,” Nortey said.

Photo: Leticia Ababio Nortey
Photo credit: Randy Opong, Simply Supreme Photography

EBI’s mission is to empower future generations to have equitable access to cross-cultural and technological education through Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics (S.T.E.A.M.) activities. Services are provided to youth aged 10 and older.

“I feel incredibly fortunate and deeply humbled to have the opportunity to serve our vibrant community and the promising youth of Ghana. It fills me with immense satisfaction and gratitude to be able to open doors for these young minds, exposing them to a wealth of cultures from around the globe, with a special emphasis on the rich tapestry of African heritage.”

Isaac Duong Naah, 18, resides in Ejura in the Ashanti region of Ghana. EBI helped him to learn coding, cyber security, cyber ethics and strengthened his public speaking skills.

EBI also offers a STEAM Exchange Program that incorporates project-based learning for students in Baltimore City, Baltimore County and Carroll County, Maryland, while allowing them to connect with students in Ejura and Agona in Ghana, Africa. The program launched when EBI learned that youth in Ghana were at home without schooling, due to the pandemic.

“We began engaging them virtually. To do this, we had to provide funds for Internet services and electricity for them to get access to the Internet,” Nortey explained.

Webcams, school supplies, laptops and other STEM learning materials were shipped to them.

“Today, our program serves about 100 students in Ghana and Maryland and 30 educators being trained in Information and Communication Technologies (ICT),” Nortey said. 

Dontae L. Ryan, II, a 20-year-old Baltimore, Maryland resident broadened his horizons through EBI. 

“EBI also exposed me to the YES Abroad Program that afforded me the opportunity to study abroad in India during my 11th-grade year,” Ryan said. 

Cultural exploration tours are designed to expose students to diverse cultures and perspectives.  Brenda A. Brown Passport Scholarships, which are named after a professor who inspired Nortey’s love for travel, provide funds for students to apply for their first U.S. passport. 

Seven students from Baltimore and seven students from Carroll County will travel with EBI to Ghana for a 10-day Study Tour in June of 2024. EBI has been trying to raise funds for it through https://givebutter.com/studyabroadfund.

“However, we face a financial hurdle with a budget set at $89,000. Your contributions could make a world of difference to each student and volunteer involved,” Nortey said. 

Additionally, the 2024 application cycle for passport scholarships will open on February 1, 2024. More information is available via https://expandingboundaries.org. Inquire about supporting EBI by emailing giving@expandingboundaries.org.

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