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From West Africa to Indy: IPS graduate sharing her knowledge

IPS graduate publishes first book.

A recent graduate of Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS) is taking the first step in educating American youngsters about the culture of the Fulani tribe and the nation of Guinea with her book “Savvy Yazzy’s African Adventure: The Fulani Culture.”

Inspired by her childhood, Boubacar Cherif Balde, now a sophomore at Ivy Tech Community College in Indianapolis, takes readers to visit the West African nation. She tells the story through the eyes of two characters in order to educate children about cultural differences.

“I wrote Savvy Yazzy because I want to share my culture with others and show them the beauty of Guinea,” Balde said. “I am very proud of the Fulani, which is my tribe. But, in doing the research I found there were very few books about my tribe that would be of interest to young children.”

In the book, a girl named Yazzy travels from America to visit the tribe of Fulani in Guinea. Yazzy is a very smart girl who wants to learn about other places and cultures. In the Fulani tribe, she finds a friend, Bouba, who teaches her the Guinean culture.

The Fulani are one of the largest ethnic groups in the Sahel and West Africa, widely dispersed across the region. Inhabiting many countries, they live mainly in West Africa and northern parts of Central Africa, South Sudan, Darfur, and regions near the Red Sea coast in Sudan

“Teaching children around the world to understand the differences between cultures is my main goal,” she said. “I believe I can do this through a series of books.”

Balde came up with the idea not too long after arriving in Indianapolis several years ago as an admittedly shy teenager. She enrolled in IPS’ Newcomer Program @ Northwest Middle School, which is open to students in Grades 6–9 who are new to the U.S. Students in the program learn English and core content at the same time. The program is free to all IPS students.

“I didn’t know how to speak or write English, but my teachers were very helpful,” said Balde,  who graduated in 2021 from George Washington High School. “I spent a great deal of time on YouTube to learn and I practiced with anyone who would listen.”

And, Balde was lucky to find good listeners in the home of Dr. Arturo Rodriguez and his wife, Ashaki. Dr. Rodriquez oversaw the Newcomer Program at the time and is now ENL (English as a New Language) senior coordinator for IPS.

Balde came to the Newcomer Program as an unaccompanied minor, noted Dr. Rodriguez.

“Because the Newcomer Program embodies core values such as respect, inclusiveness, compassion and humility, Boubacar had the courage to seek help,” he said. “And, from that day on she has been a member of the Rodriguez family.”

Dr. Rodriquez and other teachers assisted the young student as she took full advantage of the program’s high‑quality instruction in a supportive and relational environment that helped her acclimate to American culture.

“With the support of the IPS ENL Department, teachers, and even IPS Superintendent Dr. Johnson, Boubacar was given the encouragement and the opportunities needed to be a leader/scholar and live a life of choices,” Dr. Rodriquez said. “She’s living proof that newcomers can thrive in excellence at IPS when given the opportunity.

 “Now she’s a published author that’s giving back to the Newcomer learning community, but most of all she’s my adoptive daughter who is loved as one of my own! The Rodriguez family is very proud of her.”

Expect a few more adventures from Savvy Yazzy in the coming years as Balde is studying for a career in international relations with hopes of someday becoming an ambassador for her native country.

“I plan on working on many projects in Guinea and the U.S.,” she said. “I’d like to do a diversity podcast about West Africa, opening an educational institution for women there, and continuing the Savvy Yazzy series. I think she is in store for a few adventures in the coming years.”

The book may be found on Amazon here. Portions of the proceeds from the sale of Savvy Yazzy books will be donated to the Newcomer Program.