From a young age, Chernor, from Liberia, was destined for a life of slavery. His mother died when he was young and school was considered a waste of time to his family who wanted him out on the streets of Monrovia selling whatever he could. But his destiny brought him to high school in Israel. After winning a school spelling bee, he was identified as a potential candidate for GHIS’s first cohort. This young Muslim man came to Israel on a full scholarship and immediately had the support– and hearts–of the staff. Even today, a few years after his graduation, GHIS is helping guide him.
A life-changing experience: School has become Chernor’s way into a better future–for himself and those he helps in his many volunteer endeavors. That spelling bee led to his being the first person in his family to graduate from high school and now that he attends Santa Barbara Community College, California, he’s the first to attend college.
From the street to the classroom: With the full scholarship he received from GHIS, he has been able to develop his potential to excel in education and in life, where he has become a true giver. Rather than be out on the dangerous streets of Monrovia, he’s studying business administration and hopes to transfer to a 4-year university to continue his studies.
The GHIS impact: Besides traveling outside of his country for the first time, at GHIS Chernor got to experience the positive impact of diversity, inclusion, equity, and accessibility.
Through his experiences, he has found hope for a more peaceful future around the world. He says that when he and other GHIS students saw each other as human beings–and not as national or religious or ethnic enemies waging war against each other–they also learned to identify what their countries had been doing wrong. And from this, he says, they could begin to formulate how they would change things if–we say, when!–they are in leadership positions in the future. “We would proceed in a better, more positive way,” he says. We’re certainly hoping for a future led by GHIS-alumni!
Finding commonalities: At GHIS he met other students from around Africa and Muslims from different countries. Through this, he realized how their cultures and traditions were similar, which he said made it so easy for them to connect. He was thrilled that he got to live in the Holy Land where he saw so many significant sites, which had been a dream for him.
Coexistence in action: Chernor talks about how powerful it was for him and the other international students, especially from other conflict zones, to see Israeli Jews and Arabs and Palestinians interacting. Though they had been taught to fear the enemy, at GHIS they were often living in the same room and going to classes together. He talks of seeing “them come together first from fear and hate, and then to find solidarity between themselves, and eventually to become best friends.” He says that some of the best relationships at GHIS were between Arabs and Jews, which was something that he was grateful to have witnessed. Even if two peoples are in conflict, he realized, it doesn’t mean that every person in that country is in support of what their government is doing.
People power: Many students at GHIS come from conflict-riven countries–often from the opposing sides–but here they were able to empathize with the other side and understand their point-of-view. This comes down to a key GHIS lesson that Chernor learned: “If you don’t communicate, you don’t know how the other person is feeling.”
Insights from a sickbed: Shortly after his arrival at GHIS, he got pneumonia and was in the hospital for a few months. That could have been a very tough and lonely time for him. Instead, he received so much support from the campus community–students, teachers, and administrators–that he knew that he had come to the right place.
Summing up 2 years at GHIS: Chernor says that his two years at GHIS “were the greatest starting point of my life. From the moment I arrived on-campus, people were supportive and welcoming.” Students feel that special GHIS atmosphere as soon as they arrive!
Already applying lessons: From not knowing what the Model UN program was, to being awarded Outstanding Delegate each of the three times he participated in it with GHIS, Chernor decided to bring the program to Liberia, which is now in its third year. He has learned that the power of education is in spreading it.
In college, he was determined to apply what he learned about leadership at GHIS, so he became a student trustee in his first year and was elected student body president his second year. He was awarded the outstanding student volunteer award for the student who was most involved on campus in volunteerism and leadership, where he has been actively involved in a community organization helping homeless people. We’re so proud of this young man who knows the power of giving back!
A diploma doesn’t mean goodbye: The Jewish community in Santa Barbara, which is a strong supporter of GHIS, has continued to help Chernor, even after his graduation. They have found m host families for him as he attends college in their city. He feels blessed by the support he has continued to receive.
David joined GHIS because he was looking for the right educational establishment to develop personally and professionally. As soon as he heard about GHIS, he realized that it suits his values.
“As someone who has always been committed to coexistence in Israel, I see GHIS as a great vehicle to bring young people together in an accepting and non-prejudicial way.”
As well as being a teacher, David is also trained in special needs education at all school levels.
David holds a joint Honors B.Ed. in Special Education ages 6 to 21, and BA in Literature at Oranim College