WSU alumnus’ six-year engineering project in Africa nears completion

Previous teaching experience in Senegal inspired alumnus to develop project focused on kindergarten education

%E2%80%9CI+think+one+of+the+biggest+reasons+why+I%E2%80%99ve+taken+this+project+in+Senegal+so+far+is+because+it%E2%80%99s+a+great+way+for+me+to+come+home+at+the+end+of+the+day+and+get+to+use+my+creativity+and+passion%2C%E2%80%9D+said+WSU+alumnus+Andrew+Stephenson.

COURTESY OF ANDREW STEPHENSON

“I think one of the biggest reasons why I’ve taken this project in Senegal so far is because it’s a great way for me to come home at the end of the day and get to use my creativity and passion,” said WSU alumnus Andrew Stephenson.

ADALINE GRACE, Evergreen reporter

What once started as a senior engineering project for a WSU alumnus grew into a years-long effort to build a school in Africa.

Andrew Stephenson attended WSU from 2011-17. He said he began his freshman year interested in landscape architecture. He switched to civil engineering after reconsidering his passions because he knew it would present many opportunities for him, including living abroad. 

“I have a passion for city planning and urban planning because I really wanted to change the world somehow, with how to build cities,” he said.

In 2015, Stephenson was assigned to design a project for an engineering course. A year later, he formed a group of civil engineering students to assist him with his project goals. The group presented their design to multiple WSU visitors.

“I was excited to have something that was not just the standard template project that they gave us,” he said. 

Stephenson said the project focused on designing a school in Senegal, Africa — an idea he came up with to aid a community he taught English to during the summer of 2011.

He decided he wanted to be involved in building a kindergarten. Stephenson said the community in Senegal was unable to pay for their current kindergarten building’s rent. They had all of the necessary supplies and employees, but nowhere to teach.

“It was a great opportunity for people to see success projects and to see the culmination of their experience during their university classes,” he said.

Stephenson said he raised money through crowdfunding to travel to Senegal over spring break in 2016 to scope out the land and develop an idea of the building conditions, such as soil and groundwater. 

The development of the kindergarten has been a priority of the Alliance for Youth Development in Africa, Stephenson said.

AYDAF is a nonprofit that helps underserved communities through youth education and development, according to its website.

About 80 percent of the kindergarten is built. Stephenson said the only things left to add are utilities and other items like tables and chairs.

Stephenson said he enjoyed using his abilities to make a difference and actually see something come out of it. 

“I think one of the biggest reasons why I’ve taken this project in Senegal so far is because it’s a great way for me to come home at the end of the day and get to use my creativity and passion,” he said.