My Transition to the United States: Succeeding in High School and Making it to College

By: Clinton Solomon Osei

Moving to the United States when I was 14 was a very exciting event in my life, but it did create a great deal of stress. I recall the first few months in new country as being very difficult, especially as I tried to enroll into high school. Schooling in the United States is extremely different from education in Ghana. My primary education was not taught in English, but in a local dialect (Twi), so it was hard trying to learn the new language when I came to the United States. I became discouraged by my unsuccessful high school search, until I was accepted by Wendell Phillips Academy. Although I knew I was smart enough to take challenging classes, my limited English skills held me back and I was placed into lower level courses. Nonetheless, I worked diligently and eventually applied to switch into honors classes during the second semester of my sophomore year. I pleaded with my counselors and principal, and I was given the chance to take honors Algebra — a course that was not as demanding of my ability to speak English as some others. As time went on, I was able to enroll in the honors Biology and Chemistry classes as well.

While working to improve my English skills, I really wanted to focus on my pronunciation. I created flashcards that helped me pronounce words and memorize challenging definitions. I maintained a positive attitude and practiced everyday. The next school year, I applied to be in all honors classes again, even English classes. Compared to the prior semester, I was confident that I could overcome any obstacle in my path. I ended up getting into these classes, and I felt proud and ready to embrace any challenges that came my way.

Looking past high school, going to college has always being a goal of mine, even when I was a kid. Throughout my college process I struggled to figure out things like which websites to use to apply for scholarships, or how to add my parents’ W2-form to the FAFSA. Luckily, with the help of my school counselor, Ms. Kathryn Kashual, and Ms. Sonjanita Moore from the UMOJA Corporation, I was able to get the guidance that I needed. Although I have graduated from high school, the support I still receive from them keeps pushing me forward to accomplish my goals.

At First Lady Michelle Obama’s Beating the Odds Summit, I was inspired by the panel of current college students that shared their experiences and advice with the attendees. Their stories of hard work and determination to continue their education really moved me. One thing that I learned during from this day at the White House is: you will encounter many obstacles, but with perseverance and confidence in your dreams, you will reach your goal. I will carry this attitude and spirit with me as I start Bradley University, where I will be pursuing a degree in Biology with the goal of one day becoming doctor.