Ashesi offers degrees with credibility. I knew that if I attended Ashesi I would find a number of opportunities after graduation at home and abroad because of the excellent reputation of the school around the world.
Naa Ayeleysa took full advantage of what Ashesi, and the world, offers to students. From winning career fair competitions, to earning internship opportunities at Goldman Sachs in London, to presentations at global conferences in Qatar, Naa went after every opportunity with grit, passion, and an ambitious goal in mind, all while maintaining a strong classroom presence. Today, Naa works as the Executive Assistant to the CEO & Chairman of Weston Group Ltd, Ghana, Liberia, where she helps manage the affairs of the company’s subsidiaries. Naa is also a leader on the Weston Group Foundation Initiative which will launch its first two projects in August/September 2014. The first initiative is a library project, which will be heavily focused on literacy rates for children up to 16 years old. The second project focuses on healthcare, and provides first aid tool kits for children ages 0-16 admitted at the Korle-bu Emergency Ward in Accra.
Tell us a bit about your background and family.
I am the oldest of three. I grew up in Ghana, but went to secondary school in London. I returned to Ghana in order to attend Ashesi.
What or who inspired you to apply to Ashesi?
I admired the small class sizes, strong reputation, and Honor Code System at Ashesi. While most of my friends continued on in school in the UK, it was important to me that I return home to Ghana. Ashesi offers degrees with credibility. I knew that if I attended Ashesi I would find a number of opportunities after graduation at home and abroad because of the excellent reputation of the school around the world. I was confident that there would be continuity between the secondary school I attended in the UK and Ashesi. Both have high standards and were institutions where cheating was unacceptable.
When you found out that you were admitted to Ashesi what was your reaction? What was your family and community’s reaction?
I screamed I was so excited. It was such a relief knowing that I had gotten in. My mom was ecstatic. I had joined my family in Ghana upon completing my gap year, when I found out. My mom had to leave London and return to Ghana for knee surgery, leaving me alone to complete my senior year. The rest of my family had returned to Ghana as well. It was an exciting and challenging time.
While I had a lot of friends in secondary school, and was the first non-Caucasian head girl at my sixth form school, I also experienced quite a bit of racism. In 2007 and 2008 there were lots of reports of gun violence in the UK and lots of racist attitudes were swirling. I was one of the only black students at my school which was difficult.
What was the greatest thing you have learned at Ashesi?
I learned right away to be proactive and to pursue every opportunity that was sent my way. In my opinion, we Ghanaians tend to be laid back and think that things will work themselves out—which is great, but it can also mean that you miss opportunities.
While at Ashesi, I participated in a number of clubs and organizations on campus, including Model United Nations, the Ashesi Welfare Committee, was an RA and peer educator, and also had my own TV talk show on a local station discussing young people issues. In addition, I headed a project initiated by the African Development Initiative, with my team of five other students, to build 30 latrines for the Agyementi Community near Berekuso, the location of Ashesi’s home campus. I managed to keep my grades up while being involved in these activities, which is a huge point of pride for me.
At the start of a new semester (in my second year) I received news that I was reluctantly going to get kicked out of Ashesi because my family could no longer afford to pay my tuition fees. I took a proactive approach and advocated for myself just as Ashesi had taught me. I walked directly to Patrick’s office and boldly stated, “I don’t think that you should let me go. I am an asset. We need to keep me here.” He agreed.
After connecting with the financial aid office on campus, I applied for a scholarship. I was fortunate to receive a merit-based scholarship by the Educational Pathways International (EPI) based on my grades and achievements prior to and at Ashesi. I was very grateful.
What is the most challenging part of being a student at Ashesi?
I think getting the balance right was challenging. I needed to maintain my focus inside and outside of the classroom. I managed to find it, but at times it was especially difficult. I would also say that working with the administration, particularly as an RA and head of the Welfare Committee was hard. There were times where I would have to report my friends if they violated the honor code, or weren’t following school policies. It was an uncomfortable position to be in at times, but I think for the most part my peers understood and respected me for it.
What has been your proudest accomplishment?
At my graduation from Ashesi, I received the President’s Special Award, which is given to students who have contributed to Ashesi’s mission and have a strong impact on the community. I was so honored and was the only girl to receive the award that year. I felt like all of my hard work, juggling classes and activities, and still making my target of attaining Cum Laude standing, had paid off. It was a great moment for me.
In your opinion, what is the most important work that Ashesi does?
Ashesi gives you hope for a brighter future. Career Services on campus was my lifeline on campus—that’s where I got a lot of what I needed to be successful outside of a university. I was able to connect with scholarships, organizations on campus, like Model UN, and internships—including one at Goldman Sachs in London. Career services taught me to discover myself and Ashesi helped me to dream.