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Ordinary families, Extraordinary Children: The Journeys of Two Ghanaian-American Students to Harvard and Yale

Fall College Series

By: F.  Kojo Kyeremeh

The Ghanaian American Journal (GAJ) sat down with two Ghanaian-American youngsters; Kevin Adusei from Worcester, Massachusetts who was admitted to Harvard University this Fall; and Kofi Adofo Ansong from Manchester, Connecticut who also enrolled to Yale University. As part of GAJ’s Fall College Series, we took a look at their extraordinary journeys which has brought them to two of the most prestigious academic institutions in America and the World.

We begin with Kevin Adusei, for him a journey of a thousand miles, began with a single step, that step is his faith in the almighty God.

GAJ: Kevin thank you for giving us the opportunity to speak with you. It is our hope that through this interview we can inspire others to follow the path that you’re beginning to lay.
Can you give us a little background into the persona of Kevin Adusei?

Kevin: I was born in New York, but sent to live in Ghana for a few years and moved back to Worcester at the age of seven. I attended Sullivan Middle School and South High Community School, which are considered to be low-income public schools. I was selected to the Goddard Scholars Program from the 7th to 12th grade, which helped me tremendously. I was in the Tri-M Music Honor Society. I played the trumpet and played soccer. I also did Track and Field. I was a Nelson fellow, which gave me the opportunity to intern with a federal judge and other business leaders in Boston. I attend the Worcester branch of the Church of Pentecost.

GAJ: Tell us a bit about your family

Kevin: I live in a predominantly single-parent household with my mother and siblings. I have an older sister and two brothers.

GAJ: I understand you have an older brother at Yale University?

Kevin: Yes, my brother is a student at Yale, and he has made our family very proud.

Kevin Adusei

GAJ: That’s quite an accomplishment, how did your parents, especially your mother do this? What’s her secret to raising two Ivy League Aces?

Kevin: I believe my mom’s strongest foundation is her belief in God which she instilled in all of us. We are a very prayerful family. She is also a strict disciplinarian when she needs to be, but very laid back as well. When my siblings and I were kids she would make us read one hour each day and two hours every weekend before we could watch TV or use the computer. She always made sure to enforce this simple technique, which I believe made a huge impact in our lives.

GAJ: What’s the secret to getting into Harvard University? How did you do it?

Kevin: I don’t think there is some big secret to getting in. And if there is I do not know it. But what I do know, is that I invested a lot of time into my education and applied myself whenever I had the opportunity to. Most importantly I always made time for my passions. Whether it was volunteering, or church activities or ideas I wanted to pursue, I always made sure I accomplished whatever I felt passionate about.”

GAJ: How has your time at Harvard been so far? Has Harvard met your expectations?

Kevin: Harvard has exceeded my expectations. Especially with the sheer amount of resources it provides to students. It is a very hard school to get into, but they give you excellent help once you get in because they want to make sure you graduate in four years.

GAJ: You mentioned that you come from a low-income household. How are your parents funding your education at Harvard?

Kevin: They are not, Harvard is funding my entire education. I received a full scholarship to come here. Most people don’t know, but if your family makes less than $65,000 and you get admitted into an Ivy league school, you get a scholarship. Low income status is not necessarily a good thing on its own but if you work hard and do the right things, it can be a blessing.

GAJ: What are some of the things you did to make all this possible.

Kevin: I worked very hard. I am academically strong, but of the set of brilliant students, I don’t consider myself on top of the food chain; but I had good SAT scores and took many challenging courses. I also did some independent projects in my city and church: like a community service campaign and interdenominational gospel fest. All the things I did were centered around maintaining strong academics and chasing after ideas that excited me.

GAJ: Was Harvard the only school you applied to?

Kevin: No, I actually applied to all the Ivy league schools and Georgetown. But even when I received the acceptance from Harvard, I waited about a month and visited the school before I decided. Although I knew Harvard was great, I wanted to make sure it was a place where I would be able to grow as a person, as an intellectual, and most importantly, as a Christian. I have heard of people going to great colleges and losing their sense of drive and motivation, and I did not want that for myself. I believe God knows the plans he has concerning my life. To me, the main key was not whether I attended Harvard or a local state school, or even my local community college. The biggest thing was whether I was walking in God’s plans for my life. But I’m glad to say that I met some great people during my visit to Harvard who gave me the confidence and excitement to attend.

GAJ: That’s interesting, so you wouldn’t mind going to a community college? Most students fret at the idea of a community college, they forget that you can save money by getting your prerequisites done at a community college and then transfer into a four-year school.

Kevin: It was not so much that I did not mind going to a local or community college. It was more that I did not fear that possibility. Because of the personal investments I made into my education and credentials, I had an expectation of going far when it came to colleges and acceptances. But at the same time, I also trusted that wherever I ended up, I would still be walking in that good and perfect plan God had set over my life. God is the greatest story teller out there, and his stories always have ups, downs, climaxes and resolutions. I simply trusted that my college acceptances would be part of that great story He is writing for my life.
I do agree though, what you were saying concerning community colleges. I think a lot of times with students we feel this stigma towards attending community/state colleges, and end up making some economically crippling decisions that hurt us in the long run. I think it is good for students to consider how much they can benefit or save from going local and then transferring if they choose.

GAJ: It takes a village to raise a child. How has the Ghanaian community in Worcester helped to shape your life?

Kevin: There are many good things in my community in Worcester. I can always depend on the Ghanaian community to support and encourage me. And I don’t even need to know them. Whenever I did things in the community I could always find at least one Ghanaian cheering me on.

GAJ: I am a casual observer of our Ghanaian communities, and I worry that there are many parents who do not invest enough time in their children’s life and education. What are some of the things you think parents and others in the community can do better?

Kevin: One of the weaknesses I see in the community is that many parents do not invest enough quality time with their kids. A lot of kids feel out of touch with the older folks, and for some, we feel as if we have no Ghanaian role models to look up to. There are people in the community who can help shape the lives of many kids, and it would benefit a lot of the youth if they would step up and have a positive effect on the youth.

GAJ: Have you met other Ghanaian students at Harvard?

Kevin: There are many Ghanaian students here and Nigerians as well.

GAJ: What do you want to accomplish in your first semester?
Kevin: I want to use the time as a freshman to explore. There are so many things to learn, so I want to do just that. I also want to grow as a person and come into my own.

GAJ: Do you plan to be involved in the Ghanaian community when you return back to Worcester?

Kevin: Oh yes. I would try to go back and be a role model and support to other youngsters. I think many times youth need some people they can look up to, and I want to make sure I can be someone that is a positive influence.

GAJ: For an 18-year-old, you share a lot of wise things and is inspiring to hear your story. How did you learn so much at such a young age?

Kevin: All of the wisdom I have comes from the bible and sermons I’ve heard, the key is to listen to the word and try to live what it preaches.

GAJ: Do you consider yourself a Ghanaian, American or Ghanaian-American?

Kevin: I don’t consider myself as an American, but I am definitely a Ghanaian with an American influence so in that case I consider myself Ghanaian-American. I do want to improve on my twi more and visit Ghana often.

GAJ: Do you enjoy Ghanaian food? Which one is your favorite?

Kevin: Kenkey is my favorite, and my mom packed some for me to school. In fact, she made me some Eto before I came to school. And I loved it.

GAJ: Wow, Eto is very special, it is usually reserved for birthdays and other special occasions with the eggs and peanuts. Your mom must be so proud of you and the Eto explains that, lol

GAJ: What advice do you have for the youth?

Kevin: Invest and make time. Invest in the right things at the right time, and you will see the benefits. Make time to identify your interests and invest in letting them grow. Most of all always make time for your passions. And while you are chasing your goals, look for ways you can serve your community. That way both you and the people around you will grow and develop.

GAJ: Kevin, your eloquent advice is good for both young and old, you are quite special. We all want success in our communities, you are clearly a great success story and I can see the amazing things you are positioned to achieve in life. Your family and community are proud of you, and we at the Ghanaian American Journal (GAJ) congratulate you. We wish you all the best in your studies at Harvard.

Kevin Adusei

***Look out for the second edition in the series next week, featuring Kofi Adofo Ansong of Yale University***

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