Agbessimyaleh D’Almeida is a new American with a quintessentially American story.
He and his family arrived on American shores in 2008. They were refugees from Ghana, “looking for a more positive life” than was possible in their West African homeland.
“When I started high school, it was very difficult for me,” D’Almeida said. With almost no English, and transplanted to an entirely different culture and educational system, he struggled.
“I didn’t think I was fit to go to college,” he said. But he worked hard, and his struggles bore fruit: he was accepted at the University of New Hampshire, where he majored in international affairs and psychology – and graduated with honors. He went on to a year of service in AmeriCorps, working at a Boys & Girls Club, coordinating a team of mentors who work with at-risk kids. He plans to go to grad school for a Master’s in public health.
Donors who created scholarship funds at the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation helped make D’Almeida’s American dream come true.
“The idea and effort that they have put to make these scholarships possible for students like me has been and is a great blessing,” D’Almeida said. “Without the scholarship, I might not have accomplished as much as I did and achieved my goal of graduating with a four-year degree that would open up paths for me for a great future.”
The people who created the scholarships that helped D’Almeida succeed, he said, will “never be forgotten. I will always remember their generous gift.”
D’Almeida and fellow Concord High School alumni Suraj Sangroula and Sandrine Ndetah all made presentations when the Foundation’s Capital Region Advisory Board met at Concord High School in March.
All three young people came to this country as refugees, excelled in school, and received college scholarship assistance from the Foundation.
Suraj Sangroula family came to Concord from Nepal “for my and my brother’s future.”
Suraj picked up English quickly, was a standout student, and got accepted to the University of New Hampshire to major in biochemistry. He will soon become a U.S. citizen and plans to become a pharmacist.
Sandrine Ndetah was born in Cameroon. Concord became her home. She is a junior at UNH studying to become a registered nurse.
“When I moved to this country, I really wanted to do something positive with my life,” Ndetah said. “Thanks to everyone who has been donating, I have been able to go to the school of my dreams and pursue a dream job.”
One of the Capital Region Advisory board’s newest members is Anna-Marie DiPasquale, a social worker at Concord High who works in the school’s English Language Learners program. She works with some 130 students from 25 countries who speak about 30 languages – the vast majority of whom are refugees whose families were forced to leave their homelands. The State Department places refugees in communities around the country. As a refugee resettlement community, Concord has in recent decades become home to people from around the globe.
Longtime superintendent of schools Chris Rath, who recently retired, said that students from around the world have “enriched our school district in ways that you can’t measure. It’s just an amazing advantage we have here in Concord.” Just 15 years ago, only six percent of students in Concord’s schools were non-white. Now 20 percent are – “which is terrific,” Rath said. “That’s the world the kids are going to live in, and to have that experience is something there is no way we can put a measure on.” Rath also recently joined the Foundation’s Capital Region Advisory Board.
DiPasquale runs the Concord High School’s “Be the Change” multicultural club, and co-advises the National Honor Society. She makes sure the new American kids feel connected to school, and that their families do as well. She takes students to visit colleges and pushes them to excel.
Current Concord High students also shared their stories with the advisory board. Sana, from Pakistan, speaks four languages and wants to help other Pakistani girls “achieve their education.” Luck, from Uganda, speaks seven languages (and is now studying Spanish, his eighth) and wants to double-major in finance and international relations. Esther came here from Uganda less than two years ago. She is a member of the National Honor Society and wants to be an anesthesiologist. Ennosen wants to “help my family” and envisions returning to South Sudan one day “to be the president.”
DiPasquale calls them all “my kids.”
When the graduates’ presentations were through, DiPasquale held her hands to her face, and then out to them. “I am so proud of you,” she said. “I am so, so proud of you.”
The scholarships these students receive, she said, helps them on a path to opportunity that will ripple through generations.
“The Charitable Foundation has helped so many of my kids,” she said. “They have been instrumental in not only changing the trajectory of these kids themselves, but also of their families – and future generations.”
The New Hampshire Charitable Foundation is the largest source of publicly available scholarship funds in New Hampshire, awarding $5 million in scholarships to some 1,700 students every year. Learn more about Foundation scholarships.