March 23, 2017

Teacher Ed Alumnus of the Year Supports Students “Who Will Change Our World for the Better”

Photo of a nonprofit that provides computers, books, and other school supplies to children in Ghana and Mexico
Teacher Education Alumnus of the Year Kern Oduro founded a nonprofit that provides computers, books, and other school supplies to children in Ghana and Mexico. (Photo courtesy of Erika Oduro.)

Kern Oduro sends donated school supplies to children living in developing countries. He’s served as a teacher and a principal at Southern California schools.

The School of Educational Studies (SES) alumnus has considered education a ticket to a better life ever since he left his father’s home country of Ghana, where the American-born Oduro had lived since he was six years old. Since he returned to the United States in 1989, he set out—and succeeded—in making a positive impact on the lives of students here and abroad.

Oduro (MA, Teacher Education, 2000; PhD, Education, 2012) has been named the Teacher Education Alumnus of the Year. He will be honored during the SES Student Awards ceremony April 13.

“It is humbling to receive recognition for doing something you love to do and would continue to do even if no one noticed,” Oduro said. “It is a labor of love, bringing opportunities and experiences to students who will change our world for the better.”

Oduro currently serves as principal of Colony High School in Ontario, part of the Chaffey Joint Union High School District. Before that, he was principal at nearby Rancho Cucamonga High School, and he has served as a middle and high school science teacher and assistant principal.

The comments section on the Rate My Teacher webpage for Oduro provides one indication of how students regard him as an administrator: “Best principal ever. He’s so cool!!!” “He is the best.” “Best principal you could ever have! He’s social, nice, encouraging, and just awesome.”

Starting this June, Oduro will begin working at his district’s main office to serve as the assistant superintendent of personnel.

But several years ago, the future did not seem as promising for Oduro.

Born in the United States but raised in Ghana since he was a toddler, Oduro came to realize that leaving the West African nation was his best option for his future. He came to the United States in 1990, with little more than $50 to his name. Working his way through college, Oduro graduated from Azusa Pacific University—his father’s alma mater—with a degree in biology. He initially considered a career as a medical doctor, but later realized education was his calling after serving as a tutor at a juvenile detention facility in San Dimas.

Photo of School of Kern Oduro
Kern Oduro

“Making a difference in the lives of these young students brought me joy and ultimately led me to teaching,” Oduro recalled.

In 2001, he and his wife launched Access to Empowerment International (AEI), a nonprofit organization that provides educational resources to developing countries. Oduro—a student at the time—and AEI were featured on a 2011 CGU YouTube video.

“I am grateful to CGU for providing the framework of fighting for social justice in a pragmatic way,” he said. “I would like to encourage all CGU grads to continue to live out the mission of not just bringing educational equity to our communities, but creating environments that foster kindness, forgiveness, and love.”

Recently, AEI sent more than 100 computers and books to a school in Ghana and school supplies to an orphanage in Mexico.

“Kern is a great example of the special type of teacher we prepare at CGU: one whose calling it is to advance excellence and equity,” SES Teacher Education Director DeLacy Ganley said. “Whether as a classroom teacher or school leader, he looks for ways to build ladders to help students succeed.”

Oduro praised SES faculty who he said inspired, challenged, and energized him “with the will to problem-solve and innovate.”

“The issues of social justice and using education as a vehicle to bring about social change and offer opportunities to all students, particularly students of color, here and abroad, made CGU a perfect fit for me,” he said.