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"Once in Togo, I want to create small credit unions, especially for the populations of rural areas who often need the financial means to realize many projects that will improve their daily lives. In addition, I hope to create funds for the education of girls and women."
Dede Adomaykpor says she is proof that international students can succeed here. Five years ago, she left Togo for Montgomery College in Maryland, enrolled in Dickinson College as a Jack Kent Cooke Scholar in the Undergraduate Transfer Program, and now looks forward to studying developmental economics at American University. She tells foreign students they too can reach their goals "with sustained perseverance."
As a newcomer, she worked two jobs to pay for books and tuition. She also developed friendships with professors and advisors who encouraged her through tough times. She credits her parents for helping her "develop the will to succeed." She saw them overcome one adversity after another.
Through it all, her parents sacrificed to provide Dede and her siblings with an education and leadership skills. "In many parts of Togo, the boy is considered the leader even if he is the youngest." Today, Dede believes "a woman can accomplish anything a man can do." When she finished high school, Togo was a troubled country: "The government was a dictatorship; freedom of the press did not exist and my parents were not paid regularly." She opted to study economics abroad to learn not just how to maximize profits but how to improve basic living standards in countries like Togo.
Ms. Adomayakpor grew up in the West African nation of Togo before coming to the United States in January 2001 to continue her education in economics at Montgomery College. Her ambition is to earn a doctorate in economics and apply her knowledge to international development, perhaps for the World Bank or a similar institution. She is especially interested in natural resource management and public health.
Ms. Adomayakpor won scholarships and got jobs as a tutor in mathematics, a library assistant, and a cashier in the college bookstore to support herself. In addition, she took on the new experience of volunteering for more than 100 hours at an assisted living facility for the elderly. She also served as an intern at the Smithsonian Institution's Folkway Recordings division.
While in college, Raissa was admitted to the prestigious Millennium Scholars Program and elected to Phi Theta Kappa honor society. Her teachers had little but praise for her work effort and passion for learning. "She left Togo to get an education, mastered living in another culture and excelled academically," wrote Dr. Lucy E. Laufe, professor of anthropology. "Her success is defined not only by her accomplishments.but also by contributions to the campus and community at large."
Even after she completes her studies and begins her career, Raissa plans to keep giving back to others like herself. "I had to face many cultural, linguistic, and financial challenges as an international student," she wrote, adding that she planned to be a mentor to other young people who come from abroad to study in the United States. She understands their challenges after having overcome a natural shyness, learned English and adapted to American life. "Although I have worked hard, I also believe I have been very fortunate to get a good education and to experience life in a different culture," she concluded.
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