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My W&L: Emmanuel Abebrese ’15

“This whole experience has taught me the benefits of collaboration in the pursuit of demanding yet worthwhile goals.”

My time at Washington and Lee University has taught me the importance of knowing my limits and how to circumvent them through collaboration to help make the world a better place. I discovered early in my college career that I was very passionate about ending poverty. However, I was initially concerned about how pursuing this passion might affect the amount of time I had for my academic work and research projects–my main priorities.

On the one hand, I had spent the first three of my college summers working on service projects targeted at improving healthcare and education in resource-deprived Ghanaian communities. I spent the first summer assisting in the diagnosis and treatment of schistosomiasis in one village, teaching biology and grammar in a resource-deprived town, and delivering donations acquired from Burkina Faso, The United States, and Ghana to orphans and widows in Northern Ghana. I spent the second summer working on construction projects and building a library at a school. Additionally, I assisted community health nurses to vaccinate children and counsel their mothers on proper child care as a Davis Projects for Peace Fellow, with assistance from a Shepherd intern. I spent the third summer assessing the impact of previous donations to a school, and identifying schools I could collaborate with in the future. I also made arrangements for the efficient distribution of an incoming shipment of school supplies and books from Waddell Elementary school, which was expected to arrive in Ghana after I had returned to the States. I did this with help from a Woolley Fellow.

As a pre-med biochemistry major, I found these service projects to be as rewarding as my academic work. However I anticipated that the time commitment of my future academic pursuits might compel me to abandon my service projects in future. In order to prevent this, I began developing a means of reducing the amount of personal resource commitment my passion for service required. I resolved to create an organization that trains my peers so we could work on solving challenges of the resource-deprived in Ghana together. My original intent was for us to focus on improving education and healthcare in order to train the younger generation in Ghana to be competent successors for our cause.

I started by setting up a non-profit in both Ghana and the United States named Citadel Foundation for Kids (CFK), the outcome of which has brought me great satisfaction. A W&L student who had taught and interviewed children at three schools in Ghana last summer as a CFK volunteer returned to campus with ideas on how she could help CFK achieve its goals. Upon realizing that several children she taught owed school fees, we developed the idea to employ their mothers to make clothing in Ghana for sale in the United States. Already, she has committed several hours to writing a business plan, working with artists to design clothing and contacting potential investors. Moreover, she recently committed to working on additional paperwork for CFK during our winter break while I focus on shadowing physicians in Thailand. This level of dedication is characteristic of all members of CFK and the caliber of work they have invested in the beginning stages of CFK reflects the high expectations that we ascribe to as W&L students.

This whole experience has taught me the benefits of collaboration in the pursuit of demanding yet worthwhile goals. Without the support of professors, CFK’s partners and my fellow W&L students, I do not think I will have made it this far. For this reason, I will remember the W&L community fondly for the support, guidance and encouragement I receive from its members daily as they simultaneously remind me that I can achieve more through hard work and collaboration.

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Hometown: Woodbridge, Northern Virginia (born in Ghana but now a US citizen)

Major: Biochemistry

Minor: Poverty and Human Capability Studies

Extracurricular Involvement:

  • Citadel Foundation for Kids LLC
  • Student Association for International Learning
  • African Students Association
  • BBB Biology Honor Society
  • Student Health Center and Office of Health Promotion

Off-Campus Experiences:

  • Shepherd Poverty Internship, Ghana
  • Holleman Fellowship, Ghana
  • Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research-Immunology and Animal Research Departments, Ghana
  • Davis Projects for Peace, Ghana
  • International Research Experiences for Undergraduates, Ghana
  • Bluepoint Surgical Group Surgeon, USA
  • Carilion Stonewall Jackson Hospital
  • Kaneshie Polyclinic, Ghana
  • Korle Bu Teaching Hospital, Ghana

Post-Graduation Plans: Gap year and then med-school

Favorite W&L Memory: Receiving a donation towards my non-profit initiative in Ghana from the winners of the SAIL showcase for Ghana in 2013. After they were announced as winners, the winning group walked up to the microphone, thanked everyone for their support and concluded by saying that they wanted to donate their prize money to my cause. I was awestruck and once again reminded of the unique caliber of students I am surrounded by here at W&L.

Favorite Classes: Poverty and Human Capability Studies with Professor Pickett, Organic Chemistry with Dr. Higgs, International Development with Professor Dickovick, Biochemistry II with Dr. Friend and Independent Neuroendocrinology study with Dr. Toporikova

Favorite W&L Event: Speaking on P4T student-faculty panel on child and maternal health in developing countries

Favorite Lexington Landmark: Woods Creek

What’s your passion? Medicine, research and ending poverty

What’s something people wouldn’t guess about you? I consider cars to be an art form

Why did you choose W&L? The Honor system.

Why did you choose your major? It is challenging and provides adequate preparation for med school

What professors have inspired you? Provost Daniel Wubah, Professor Dickovick, Dr. Pickett, Dr. Higgs, Dr. Friend, Dr. Toporikova

Advice for prospective or first-year students? Get to know your professors, get to know yourself, be yourself, and then surround yourself with hardworking people. Finally, embrace diversity.

What do you wish you’d known before you came to campus? It is okay to ask for help. Professors are more interested in helping you learn that you proving how smart you are to them.