Angel Asamoah ’25 receives prestigious Obama-Chesky Scholarship for Public Service

Angel Asamoah ’25, a neuroscience major at The College of Wooster

Angel Asamoah ’25, a neuroscience major at The College of Wooster, was recognized for her commitment to public service and social change by the Obama Foundation. She is one of 100 college juniors representing 33 states and territories and 74 colleges and universities across the country selected for the two-year Voyager Scholarship in Public Service. The scholarship, also known as the Obama-Chesky Scholarship for Public Service, was created by Barack and Michelle Obama and Brian Chesky, co-founder and CEO of Airbnb, to support young people who are eager to bridge divides and take on the world’s biggest challenges.

Asamoah was chosen to be in the second cohort of Voyagers for her interest in making a difference in mental health and drug and alcohol use among youth populations. She is interested in mental health because where she grew up in Ghana, she and her friends didn’t get the help they needed or wanted because “mental health is a taboo topic, a shunned topic there,” she said. Eventually, she hopes to research the effects of early drug and alcohol use on youth brain development and educate others on her findings.

Arriving in the United States in 2019 to finish high school before attending college, Asamoah realized mental health still has a stigma in the U.S., but not as much as in Ghana. “Help is available here. Coming to the U.S., I found out that mental health is something that I can actually talk to someone about. I want people to know they can have conversations and don’t have to be quiet about their feelings and deal with things on their own,” she said.

After high school, Asamoah chose to attend Wooster where she could thrive in the close-knit, liberal arts environment. She appreciated the extra effort and personal attention she received from the Wooster Admissions staff and believed that caring culture was exactly what she needed to be successful in college.

Though she had grown up planning to be a doctor, when she learned it would take eight years in the U.S. versus six years in Ghana, she said, “The different requirements and time commitments for a medical degree in the U.S. were a little daunting for me.” She decided to continue her interest in behavioral health as a psychology major. However, after taking one neuroscience class “on a whim,” she aced it, loved it, and discovered cognitive behavioral neuroscience on a pre-health track was the best way to mesh her interests and ambitions.

She became very involved at Wooster as a health coach, resident advisor, and most importantly for her, as a peer mentor and co-president of the African Students Union. Both of those activities align well with her career interests. As a peer mentor for first-year students, Asamoah likes “to make sure the students feel like they can actually succeed.”  Her role with the African Students Union lets her amplify the voices of the African students on campus and to help create connections for them. “That gives me satisfaction and it feels like meaningful work,” she said.

Asamoah’s passion for helping others, her experiences serving in and building community, and her interest in mental health and reducing risks for alcohol and drug addiction for youths contributed to her being selected for the scholarship.

Through the scholarship, Asamoah will receive up to $50,000 ($25,000 per year) in financial aid for her junior and senior years at Wooster, a $10,000 stipend and free Airbnb housing to pursue a summer work-travel experience next summer, and a mentor and network of leaders through the program. She plans to attend the foundation’s fall summit in Chicago that is designed to help the scholars define their public service journey. “I’m interested in mental health and addiction and how youth can find more coping mechanisms than turning to drugs and alcohol. I would like to design something geared towards that,” she said. Once she graduates, she becomes part of the Obama Foundation’s global community.

“I was shocked,” Asamoah said about receiving the notification letter. “I’m not afraid to say, ‘I’m a scholarship kid.’ One of my main goals has been to not pay out of pocket for college, which unfortunately I’ve had to do. This scholarship will make it easier for me to go to school and focus on the work I want to do without thinking about how I’m going to pay for my last two years,” she said.

She also looks forward to developing her public service journey with the help of the mentors and networks that are included in the Voyager experience. After graduating, she may delay medical school and continue to think about the work she wants to do. “I don’t know what it looks like, but I plan to focus on the area of positive mental health and education,” she said, most likely at some point returning to Ghana to see if she can make a difference in the community where she grew up.

Posted in News on October 2, 2023.

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