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“My greatest achievement I am most proud of is being in college. I cherish and value every minute of it. I am the last of five children and the first in my entire extended family to go to college.”
Profile: Born in Ghana, raised in Italy, schooled in California. That sums up the three key geographical locations in the life of Undergraduate Transfer Scholar Theophilus “Theo” Offei. Theo, an honors graduate from Cabrillo College in the beautiful seaside city of Santa Cruz, will be studying political science further down the coast at the University of Southern California. When the Foundation asked Theo to describe how he arrived at this point in his life, he answered quickly: “Determination and hard work!” Although new to the U.S., Theo’s affable personality and desire to learn made him a campus, if not a community favorite. He quickly fit in and embraced a number of American traditions. Unable to go home to Italy during the Thanksgiving vacations in 2009 and 2010, Theo found a community service organization in downtown Santa Cruz and helped prepare and serve turkey dinners for the elderly and those without families. A big fan of President Obama, although not a citizen, Theo quickly joined the Cabrillo College Democrats Club. And although he’s not an athlete, Theo was an active member of the college’s chapter of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. In his spare time, Theo tutored young people in Santa Cruz attempting to learn Italian. He also speaks at local high schools about the importance of education through the “Dream Big, Think Big” program.
Inspiration: Santa Cruz area businessman and philanthropist George Ow Jr. is Theo’s mentor. As Mr. Ow has said, “the American Dream is that you can come from humble beginnings and if you work hard enough, can become anybody and anything; and when you become…you shall assist others.” One of the many “blessings” Mr. Ow passed on to Theo is his love for reading.
Aspiration: Eventually Theo wants to attend law school. Initially though he’ll be earning a degree in political science at USC.
Making a Difference: Being in college enables and empowers Theo to share his story with those who, like him, are also from humble beginnings. “In fact, I begin and end my ‘Dream Big, Think Big’ presentation with my story,” said Theo. “I remember a young man who came up to me after one of the presentations and said, ‘Thank you! I am going to be a big dreamer now, and make education a priority.’ To know that I can make a difference in the lives of others gives me great joy.”
Accolades: Theo was recently nominated for the Tony Hill Award. “Mr. Hill was a beloved community leader and mentor whose gifts as a mediator promoted the causes of justice and equality." The award recognizes an individual whose work and actions exemplify Tony Hill’s commitment to the community and to social justice.
Interesting Fact: Theo said he relies “heavily on my Christian faith.”
University of Chicago
Texas A & M University
Undergraduate Transfer Scholar