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The Reach

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Finding Family through Scholarship & Mentorship

Finding Family through Scholarship & Mentorship

Editor’s Note: This post was written by Daniel Owusu, a 2016 Pearson Scholarship for Higher Education Scholar and a member of the Alpha Iota Omicron Chapter at Westchester Community College in New York. It originally appeared on the Pearson Students blog and is reprinted here with their permission.

Thanks to the United States Diversity Visa lottery, I had the opportunity to travel for the first time outside my motherland, Ghana, after 23 years. From a family of four boys and a single parent, I was the only one that made the trip to the United States of America.

Back in Ghana, my friends and I had formed a volunteer group to help educate our village on how to get potable water from the river. We took them through a simple water purification process by boiling the river water, cooling it, and then filtering it.

We also initiated a youth communal labor group to promote good sanitation and health in the community. This experience motivated me to pursue a career in the health field so that I will not only educate people to live healthy lives, but also provide healthcare to those who are ill.

When I came to the United States in 2014, I had assistance for accommodation courtesy of a family friend. With this support, I was able to get employment at a retail store. My benefactor went through some challenging moments. As such, the accommodation support was terminated, and I had to find an apartment for myself.

This was very challenging because I was working part time and wasn’t making enough to provide for my accommodations and other basic needs, not to mention providing assistance to my family back home. I started working two jobs to meet my needs and that of the family back home.

When I traveled to the states, it was my dream to start college as a first-generation college student to motivate my siblings to aim for higher education. Due to my financial challenges, I had to wait for a year before I could attend a college.

In fall 2015, I applied and was admitted to Westchester Community College (WCC) in Valhalla, New York. It was my career goal to become a physician; but looking at my circumstances, I thought of pursuing a career that would take less duration and wouldn’t cost as much to pursue.

After taking my placement test and meeting with my academic counselor, Ellen Zendman, she challenged me not to look at the short-term impact of pursuing my ideal goal but to focus on the long-term effect it would have not just on my but my family and my country as a whole. After deliberating on her suggestion, I decided to go for the ultimate shot and pursue a degree in liberal arts and science with the sole aim of going to medical school.

I must admit taking this path has been very challenging in that I had to stop working two jobs and stick with one. To continue to support my family and myself, I had to be full time with both work and school. This adversely affected my academic performance.

I resolved to work fewer hours to have time for school, but this resulted in financial difficulties. Thanks to the WCC Foundation scholarship and the PTK Pearson Scholarship for Higher Education, some of my basic needs are met and now, with the few hours I work at my job, I am able to provide for some of my needs and that of my family back home.

My academic performance is improving, and I currently hold a GPA of 3.95. I know only the sky will be my limit as I persevere to achieve my career goal of becoming a physician.

I am grateful for the support I have received from my church, WCC faculty, and the fellow Ghanaians I have encountered because, without them, life here in the United States would have been very unbearable.

Receiving the Pearson Scholarship has been very instrumental in my academic performance in that it has helped me acquire my academic materials and assisted me with my tuition. Some of my academic needs are now met, so I can work fewer hours at my job and still meet my other needs.

With this scholarship, I now have adequate time to study and do my assignments, ultimately improving my grades. The scholarship also affords me ample time to get involved with extracurricular activities on campus, including tutoring and volunteer exercises.

The mentoring aspect of the Pearson scholarship has been a very useful instrument for my academic success. I feel privileged to be paired with Ramona Elmer, my mentor, who has been very encouraging and supportive all this while. Our weekly connections help us keep up with each other. Ramona is always there for me, ready to talk about everything from academics and personal life issues to reviewing my essays and suggesting solutions to problems I present to her.

To me, the mentorship is a great component of the scholarship. Knowing at the back of your mind that you have someone who is willing to ensure your success, not just in academics but other endeavors, is very relieving. My mentor makes me feel very special, and I must say this is more than just a mentorship; we are a family.

Apply for the Pearson Scholarship for Higher Education through Phi Theta Kappa’s Spring Scholarship Application. The deadline is May 2.

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