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NOVA graduate thrives despite health challenges

Photo of Nana Adwoa Ofori

In May, approximately 7,600 students will graduate from Northern Virginia Community College and each has a story about his or her educational journey. One of these students is Nana Adwoa Ofori at NOVA’s Manassas Campus.

Born in the United States, Ofori spent her formative years in Ghana before returning. “It was definitely a shock moving back to the U.S. but, luckily for me, I have extended family here who helped me adjust,” the 21-year-old Manassas resident said.

Ofori also credits a long list of NOVA faculty and staff with helping her successfully manage her time in college.

“Many people have been in my corner, including my advisor and surrogate mom Professor Maryellen Ryan who pushes me to do my very best and Professor Cathleen Cogdill who is nothing short of an inspiration,” she said. “Marcie Schreibman, Cari Dresser and Alisa Berry have helped me develop professionally and Corey Esparza, my disability counselor, is forever making sure I stay healthy.”

Ofori thrived at NOVA in spite of chronic sickle cell disease which put her in the hospital several times. Even in the face of adversity, she graciously credits others. “I have an incredible support system at the college which helps me stay on track so that I’m able to maintain my grades,” she said.

Professor Melanie Jeschke encouraged Ofori to get involved with NOVA’s Honors Program which she calls “the launch pad” for everything she achieved at the Manassas Campus. While completing 22 credits in the challenging Honors Program, Ofori served as a Student Ambassador and Orientation Leader and held numerous leadership positions.

“I have been privileged to serve in several leadership positions during my time at NOVA. Currently, I am treasurer for both Phi Beta Lambda Club and Honors Club. I also serve as the vice president of scholarships for Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society and as the Student Government Association representative for the Political Science Club. In the past, I was secretary for the Student Government Association. Being part of these programs and organizations has helped me develop my leadership skills and explore other interests besides academics.”

Her instructors have nothing but praise for Ofori. “She possesses a combination of intellect and determination that I have never before encountered in a student,” Professor Ruth Stewart said. “Her Honors project for my American literature class introduced me to a firsthand source with which I was previously unacquainted. Ms. Ofori’s work in this area has inspired me to investigate this topic on my own. To spark such interest fulfills the highest purpose of academe.”

Ofori has earned an associate degree in general studies and will graduate with high honors. She has applied to Georgetown University where she plans to study international heath. “After earning my undergraduate degree, I hope to work in the health policy field helping to make healthcare more affordable for people in developing countries. I also intend to get my master’s degree in epidemiology,” Ofori said.

NOVA President Scott Ralls nominated Ofori for the Georgetown Preferred Consideration Program which invites participating colleges to recommend a few strong candidates interested in continuing their studies at Georgetown University.

In his recommendation Ralls said, “Nana Ofori is an exceptionally intelligent and talented student who has excelled academically and thrived in her extracurricular activities, despite facing formidable challenges. She is passionate in her belief that access to quality health care should be available to all, regardless of socioeconomic class, and is committed to remedying the discrepancy between the Ghanaian and U.S. healthcare systems. I have no doubt that her plans to study international health, together with her intellect and drive, will enable her to solve these and other complex issues.”

Reflecting on her time at NOVA, Ofori said she would advise all incoming students that NOVA is a place filled with wonderful opportunities. “Get involved and build relationships with others. That’s one way to make the best of the NOVA experience.”

NOVA’s 50th annual Commencement will be held May 14 with Dr. Jill Biden as the keynote speaker. Biden has been a full-time English professor at NOVA since 2009 while serving as Second Lady of the United States. Due to space limitations, only graduates and their guests will be admitted.

For immediate release
April 27, 2016
Contact:  Carlene Mackereth

Northern Virginia Community College is the largest institution of higher education in the Commonwealth of Virginia and one of America's largest community colleges. NOVA enrolls more than 75,000 students at its six campuses in Alexandria, Annandale, Loudoun, Manassas, Springfield and Woodbridge, and through the Extended Learning Institute. For more information about NOVA and its programs or services, call 703-323-3000 or visit the College's Web site, www.nvcc.edu.