I am Dena Grushkin, the founder and director of The Nigerian School Project, a non-profit educational organization that supports teachers and students in Nigeria, West Africa. I am also an innovative Teaneck, NJ, USA middle school teacher and a celebrated portrait photographer.
In 2009, the NSP built the first junior secondary school on Tomaro Island, a river community of over 350,000 residents. This public school, adopted by the Lagos State government, now has an enrollment of over 400 students, nearly half of whom are girls. The building of this school caught the attention of the United States Embassy and medical teams began conducting health clinics. In 2011, a permanent medical facility was built, funded by the US Embassy.
In 2013 and 2014, this school received distinguished awards for scoring among the highest of all junior secondary schools in Lagos State (competing against 3,000 schools), a remarkable achievement for those teachers and students. The school was rewarded with computers initially powered by electrical generators. In 2015, the government installed solar batteries and panels. One year later, Tomaro was honored with a visit from the United States Ambassador to Nigeria, James Entwistle who said, “Tomaro is another example of how much is accomplished through personal ties and relationships between Americans and Nigerian communities.”
It was in 2004, that a visit to Nigeria opened my eyes to the reality of children living and studying under the most challenging circumstances. Upon my return I created The Nigerian School Project and have been traveling there annually, providing support in whatever way I can. I have purchased textbooks, sewn school uniforms, constructed classroom furniture, built school libraries, provided university scholarships and shipped over 10,000 library books with the US Navy. This can be witnessed in over fifteen public schools and has been recognized by the Nigerian government in awards, publications and letters of appreciation.
My commitment continued with the building of a senior secondary school in 2014, a teacher residence in 2015 and a security wall surrounding the entire school compound in 2016.
Twelve years ago I chose to devote myself to the portrayal and education of Nigeria’s youth. It was the indomitable spirit I encountered then that continues to inspire me today. It is my wish that a book, a pencil or the walls of a classroom provided by this organization inspire a child to be all they choose to be.