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Birthright AFRICA Alumni Stories

100% of Birthright AFRICA Scholars shared that their Birthright trip was life-changing and that they plan to visit the African continent again. Check out a few stories below.

From left to right, Akeem Frett, Adriana Bertrum, Walla Elsheikh, Aaron Saunders, Kwame Sparkes, Kikelomo Olanipun

Having the chance to explore my cultural roots and legacy of innovation within NYC, DC, and Ghana was life-changing! Growing up in a multigenerational family in the Bronx, my family instilled me with values like a need for honest introspection, the value of education, and a drive for excellence. While I excelled at school, things at home would take a different turn. Right after graduating high school, I made the decision to put off college and help care for my 6-year-old brother to support my mother who was overcoming a health condition. When my mother’s health improved, I enrolled in the City University of New York (CUNY) Hunter College to study accounting, returning to the New York of my childhood and working nights at Apple’s 24-Hr Genius Bar. Despite some success, remembering the strong values and community I was raised with, I still sensed a lack of support for young professionals like me. An email from CUNY’s Black Male initiative regarding the Birthright AFRICA mission would change that. Birthright has given me a sense of community similar to my family values where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. This whole now includes a connection to my ancestral roots in Africa. Because of Birthright AFRICA, I have found that my greatness and potential go far beyond racial boundaries. I am self-affirmed and fearlessly blazing my own career path.

2018 CUNY Birthright Alum, Akeem Frett

“My Birthright experience freed my mind and made me realize that the possibilities for me are truly limitless; that the strife of my forebears shouldn’t be and isn’t in vain because here I am today, a living representation of them. Part of the work that Birthright has its scholars undergo is envisioning their own legacy of innovation — the imprint and influence they will leave behind. Since I once walked through the world feeling disempowered, I decided to focus my legacy of innovation on empowerment and having our people truly control our own destinies.”

2018 CUNY Birthright Alum, Shaina Louis

excerpt from Shaina’s article in Teen Vogue

As a first-generation college student coming from immigrant parents, I feel blessed to know that my prayers were answered when I received the birthright travel experience outside of the classroom. I come from a humble beginning living in a single parent household and I feel lucky to have been chosen by Education Partner GrowHouse NYC. I am now very excited to be working with Birthright AFRICA Co-Founder and CEO Walla Elsheikh as a finance intern while I finish my Finance degree at Queens College at the City University of New York. Having the opportunity to learn more about my history is a blessing and I feel even more so today. I plan to use my birthright experience to educate youth and inspire them to fulfill their greatness.

2019 GrowHouse Birthright Alum, Nathaniel Page

Young Black Man Smiling
Kassan and Tredesha at the Adinkra Villages with other scholars

Being born and raised in Barbados, I never realized how rich and strong the African American story is including the untold stories of business owners and executives of African descent in the U.S and in African countries.  The support of people like you allowed me to journey into not only History but myself. Ghana felt like home. The people were friendly and welcoming; there was great food and vendors. To be able to see the dungeons that enslaved Africans one day and then meet Ghanaian leaders like Lucy Quist the next day were both equally important to the personal shift I experienced on this journey. On my return home, I came back to the U.S. still processing what I’d been through. Because of Birthright AFRICA and your continued support, I learned the importance of putting myself out there and building a strong network to confidently build my finance career in the US and globally.

2017 CUNY Birthright Alum, Tredesha Howard

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