After winning the Davis Project for Peace prize of $10,000, rising junior Gideon Ampofo is gearing up to start the Springboard Scholars program in Accra, Ghana, this August.
In 2007, internationalist and philanthropist Kathryn W. Davis created Projects for Peace when she committed $1 million for one hundred Projects for Peace. Since then, the award has invited undergraduates at participating partner institutions to apply, and encourages student initiative, innovation, and entrepreneurship focusing on conflict prevention, resolution, or reconciliation.
In his proposal, Ampofo explained that his home country, Ghana, has a strict emphasis on exam results and not on community engagement. As such, students cannot tap into their full potential.
“I recall how under-preparation and limited exposure to career and personal development opportunities made my transition to college difficult compared to my peers in other parts of the world,” Ampofo wrote in his proposal. “Most Ghanaian public high school students' status quo is to complete their diploma and enroll in university programs based on their WASSCE (regional high school final exams) grades. These students have little thought for meaningful activities such as community service, career exploration, entrepreneurship, and innovation due to the unavailability and or the inaccessibility of such opportunities.”
The Springboard Scholars Program seeks to be a selective, intensive solution: an eight-day youth empowerment program that gives high school students practical advice and the inspiration to take action in their communities. This “bootcamp,” according to Ampofo’s proposal, includes guest speakers, corporate visits, a community service day, financial literacy training, and more.
After hearing about Davis Projects for Peace from a recent graduate who had also won the award, Ampofo was inspired to apply. He worked with his coordinators from the Bonner Scholars Program along with Nick Petzak, the director of fellowships and awards at Oberlin, who showed Ampofo past proposals to guide his own project.
Ampofo, who is a computer science and economics double major, explains how Springboard Scholars relates to his personal and professional interests.
“Economics is basically learning about the scarce resources in society and how to allocate those resources, or how individuals or businesses make decisions that they make,” Ampofo says. “[Springboard Scholars] relates to giving back to society, development economics, making communities better, and empowering the youth who are the future leaders of the global economy.”
He also designed his program to have breadth and depth: after gaining valuable community service, financial literacy, and leadership skills, students can then impart their knowledge to their classmates back home. The program creates a ripple effect where young people can inspire other young people to take action.
Ampofo adds that the program’s guest speaker series will include other young people because he was personally inspired by youth leaders, all tying back to the theme of inspiration and empowerment.
“[Springboard Scholars] will get to meet industry experts, and they will get to meet young leaders, like themselves, who are making an impact in society—because that was a breakthrough for me when I attended a conference in Madrid, where I saw what a lot of young people like myself were doing globally in their communities, and the impact they were making. I thought, ‘Okay, if young people like myself are doing it, I can also do it.’”
The Project for Peace prize comes with $10,000, which Ampofo is allocating toward securing venues, food, resources, materials, and financial aid for applicants who need it.
Ampofo is currently in New York, but is excited to return to Accra, Ghana, to meet the first group of Springboard Scholars in person when the program begins on August 14.
For students who are interested in their own Project for Peace or fellowships, Ampofo encourages them to take advantage of the resources available, read and research programs, reach out to people for help, and “don’t be afraid to apply.”
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