Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Coming to America

Coming to America
Coming to America was a gift. A huge gift that changed my life forever (ya don't say!)!
For some years I had been penpals with my cousin and we had written about how we were doing in school. I remember drafting and re-drafting those letters before I thought they were perfect enough to merit the expensive postage that would take them 'abroad'.
I was a bright kid with academic potential. I was not the brightest kid in my classes (Ashiali, Richa and Tatua made sure of that!). But I was in the top pack consistently.

Recognizing the potential, my uncle (father's brother) and his family invited me to come live with them while attending high school. Being in the U.S. would make it easier for me to look for college scholarships. The offer was made and my family hesitated for only a second before taking it. I was 14 years old. I had only ever been away from home for one year of boarding school during the first year of high school and It had been a rough adjustment.

But this was the offer of a lifetime and we all knew it presented unbelievable opportunities for me. I was barely into my teens but off I went. On my own to relatives I had never met in a country I had only seen on T.V. and pictures.

That first trip was a collaborative effort and a joint investment. My parents tried their best to get me emotionally ready while hiding their fears. They must have been so anxious but I had no idea! Only now can I think back and imagine what it must have felt like to them.

The Ted and Sylvia Hatfield not only paid for that first ticket, they also met me in London, showed me around and made sure I got on the right plane to Denver.

Then of course my Uncle's family was going to be my new family for the next four years.

The impact of this past on Akili Dada is that I’m excited to find potential and to support and nurture it. My uncle saw potential in me and offered me opportunity. I think that’s an incredible chain reaction to continue. Akili Dada is my attempt to magnify the investment in young Africa’s potential.

For the right people, the right opportunity can unlock magic. With Akili Dada I want to find young women thirsty for an opportunity. I want to find tenacious, hardworking dreamers and give them the opportunity to just rocket into the stars.

And of course Akili Dada is a collaborative effort and a joint investment. Many give their money and even more encourage me and nurture my spirit so I can keep doing this. I tell our scholars that their lives are like an IPO and we are buying stock with a hope that it will appreciate in the future. We are investing in them and the profit is the success that they make out of their lives.

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