EMMANUELA OPPONG '19
Growing up in Ghana, Emmanuela Oppong ’19 was familiar with the serious health issues that ravaged the coastal African country. AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis were just some of the major crises afflicting the developing country of more than 28 million.
By the time she arrived in the U.S. to attend high school in the South Bronx, Oppong witnessed poverty and other social problems.
Her experiences in both countries had a profound impact.
“If I can help others, that’s what I want to do,” Oppong said.
The bioengineering major received a significant boost to pursue her dream in 2018 when she was awarded a prestigious Harry S. Truman Scholarship. She was among 59 students from 52 institutions who were chosen based on leadership, public service and academic achievement. Recipients receive a $30,000 scholarship toward graduate school and the opportunity to participate in professional development programming to help prepare them for careers in public service leadership.
2018 was a big year for Emmanuela. In addition to the Harry S. Truman Scholarship she also won a Kathryn Wasserman Davis Projects for Peace award. Davis Projects for Peace is an invitation to undergraduates to design grassroots projects that they will implement during the summer. The objective is to encourage and support today's motivated youth to create and try out their ideas for building peace. Each project is funded with a $10,000 grant. “Peace to me is providing orphans in Ghana – who would otherwise be overlooked and ultimately trapped in poverty because of a lack of skills – education and employment options that will give them opportunities to support themselves,” said Oppong.
Emmanuela will travel the world next year thanks to the prestigious Thomas J. Watson Fellowship Program. The Watson Fellowships are a one-year grant for purposeful, independent exploration outside the United States, awarded to graduating seniors. Her project is on Social Entrepreneurship: Empowering Local Minds, Finding Healthcare Solutions and will bring her to Kenya, Uganda, Eswatini, Liberia, Hong Kong, China and India.
"On my Watson year I will explore organizations and projects that empower locals to participate in healthcare outreach and research. Engaging with workers and local community members I hope to learn about the similarities and differences, successes and challenges, and cultures and customs that influence these initiatives."
More on her Davis Project for Peace:
Project title: Stitching Talents
Description: “In my home country of Ghana, there are approximately 1.1 million children who have either lost one or both parents from diseases like malaria and AIDS. Many roam the main city, Accra, where the economy is rising and money flows in, but it is not enough to offer shelter or education for these children. I strongly identify with the children of Ghana who go without, and I want to help provide them opportunities which will lead to peace in their lives. After researching the Egyam Orphanage—a facility that supports about 80 children in the Western region of Ghana—I connected with the director, Mr. Payne, and proposed building a school for an inclusive educational project. This school will spearhead projects that equip students and other children in the neighborhood with useful, hands-on skills, in addition to their regular education. The “Stitching Talents” program will establish a sustainable vocational school. However, it is not the typical vocational school where the families of the students have to pay apprenticeship fees. It will be free. Through “Stitching Talents,” students will learn: tailoring, crocheting, knitting, cloth printing and dyeing, shoemaking and entrepreneurial skills from established tailors, business owners and traditional artisans. After the apprenticeship and certification, the experienced students can pass on their knowledge and skills to their peers, at no cost. These profitable and productive skills can provide students an alternative revenue source, such as opening a small clothing store—which is a very lucrative enterprise in Ghana. “Stitching Talents” will provide a buffer for the young women and men of Ghana that ensures opportunities and decreases their risk of putting their life, health and the future of their country in danger.