McHenry, MD - The students at Grantsville and Crellin elementary schools were engaged throughout Ngoye Bobmanuel's talks about his native Nigeria. In one presentation – Mrs. Hordubay's third-grade class at Crellin – they saved their biggest "ooh's" and "ah's" for the Power Point slide showing an elephant putting its trunk through the moon roof of a car.
"Would you see an elephant like that just out in the open?" asked a third-grader during last Monday's visit to Crellin.
"You might," said Bobmanuel – who just goes by "Bob" – while noting the giraffe in another photo was only likely to be found in a Nigerian zoo.
Bob, a Garrett College international student who will be playing on the Lakers' men's basketball team this season, visited with each of the classes at both Crellin and Grantsville elementary schools. His visit was arranged through Tim Watson, school counselor for both elementary schools, and Garrett College Admissions Coordinator Melissa Wass.
Bob's visits helped kick off the third year of a Garrett College-Garrett County Public Schools cultural diversity initiative developed by Watson and Vianne Bell, a member of the Garrett College Board of Trustees who also serves on the board of the international Coalition for Effective Local Democracy that is based in McHenry.
"Presentations like this open their eyes to a whole new world," Crellin Principal Dr. Dana McCauley said of the program's impact on her students. "They begin to understand there's a bigger world out there. They learn not just about other cultures and customs, but also that people are people wherever you go."
Tracie Miller, principal of Grantsville Elementary School, agreed.
"The diversity program partnership with Garrett College allowed the Grantsville Elementary students to richly experience cultures from around the world," said Miller. "We were extremely delighted to have Bob visit our school. He is a natural speaker and the children were actively engaged throughout his presentation about Nigeria, even calling him a 'rock star' ".
Bob told students about his family, which includes four sisters and two brothers. While one of his brothers is a microbiologist in Austin, TX, Bob said his other siblings all still reside in Nigeria.
Asked by the Crellin third-graders about Nigerian holidays, Bob said two of the most popular ones are Children's Day (May 27th) and Independence Day (October 1st). While about the size of Texas, Bob noted Nigeria has a population (160 million) nearly half as large as that of the United States.
"We have a lot of big cities," said Bob, adding that Nigeria is a nation comprised of 36 states.
Wass said the program benefits the Garrett College students as well as the elementary school students they meet.
"I think it's good for our students to be involved in our community, especially at the elementary school level," Wass said of the international student outreach program. "Our international students represent the college well and serve as really good role models for the elementary school students."
Wass, who works with international students during the admissions process, says she enjoys getting to know more about the students as part of these presentations.
"It's been fun to learn where they came from, their journey getting to the college, and about their cultures," said Wass.
Bob came to the United States four years ago, graduating from Victory Christian Center School (Charlotte, NC) in 2018. He spent the 2018-19 academic year at McCook Community College – a campus of Mid-Plains Community College – in McCook, Neb., where he played for the Indians' men's basketball team.
"Education is very important," Bob told the students. "You should take it very seriously."
Watson said both schools' students have been invited to attend, free of charge, a Garrett College basketball game in the upcoming season so the students can see Bob – a 6-foot-8 center/forward – play for the Lakers. Bob, meanwhile, is pleased to be living in Garrett County.
"It's a great place full of lovely people who are willing to help you," he said. "That's what matters the most."