“Amanea,” began Elizabeth Oppong ’12 at All School Meeting on Wednesday. Amanea, which means “why are you here guest” in Ghanaian, was a question Oppong returned to as she shared the story of her experiences in Ghana this past timer.
Oppong was the 2012 recipient of The Lorant Fellowship for Most Earnest Endeavor to support her idea of teaching children at the St. James Seminary School creative writing and directing a production of Macbeth.
The Lorant Fellowship is awarded to a member of the Upper Class, first nominated by their peers and then selected by faculty members on the Fellowship Search Committee, to support a project they propose.
In addition to working with her students, Oppong met with politicians and local officials to discuss Ghana’s issues and progress, shadowed a doctor at a local hospital and meet with the elders of the community to get a better sense of the culture. She also gave a radio interview about her project.
Mark Efinger, Instructor in Theater/Dance and the Chair of the Lorant Fellowship Committee, said, “Elizabeth had the best proposal, and she was the kid that screamed out from that group of kids… this girl puts forth a remarkable amount of effort.”
Oppong structured her talk around three concepts that she learned from her project.
Her first understanding was that you can change people, but you will be surprised to know that they can change you as well.
She shared her experiences working with her creative writing students. At first her students were resistant to her efforts, but after she allowed them to ask her “any question they wanted for 10 minutes” they began to open up to her.
Secondly, she said learned that her name was not only Elizabeth Oppong, but also Afia Pomaa.
She said, “I realized to [my extended family in Ghana], Elizabeth Oppong was a niece who signed Christmas card every year that lived abroad. Afia Pomaa was the one who returned home to fulfill that duty of getting to know her identity and to get to know her family.”
Oppong’s third lesson was that the experience of hard work, despite the fact that one might fail, outweighs any success. She learned exactly what the Lorant Fellowship promote and look for. She said, “Efforts triumph any awards. They open up new experiences, teach us new things, and show us that we are even stronger than we imagine.”
Through her time at Ghana, she realized that, “what [she] thought would be a trip in which [she] would impress [her] ideas and experiences upon the people of Ghana, turned out to be a trip in which [she] became the student, and Ghana, the teacher.”
Oppong said she may return to Ghana next summer. “The Bishop in Ghana invited me to come back next summer to teach, and I will hopefully try to recognize that invitation. I would love to go back and work with new people, and find new context. It is a place of opportunities,” she said.
Usually, about 50 to 60 students are nominated, and the Fellowship Committee, Mr. Efinger, Ms. Foley, Mr. Hurley, Liz Davisson, Ms. Frye and Ms. Dolan, go through the process of eliminating them.
Finally, three finalists are chosen among the nominees, who were Anthony Tedesco ’12, Lorenzo Conte ’12 and Elizabeth Oppong ’12 last year.
Lorant Fellowship was founded in 1995 when a girl who was awarded the Sarah Abbot award turned it down the Sarah Abbot award.
According to Efinger the reason she turned it down was because, “while she achieved an awful lot at school, she felt that the pressure on kids to achieve at all costs had partly been blamed for her pushing herself harder than she should have.”
He then talked to Andrew Lorant ’48 about how “there is too much emphasis on how much kids achieve, and not enough emphasis on how much effort kids put into things they achieve… the message that we give kids around here really should be about if you work hard then it is actually that hard work itself which is the reward.” Thus, the Lorant award was founded.