By Molly Williamson
When she was 11 years old, Hearst Scholar Nana Ntodi received an amazing opportunity. She and her family, who lived in Ghana, won the visa lottery and were able to move to the United States.
“There was no economic problem in Ghana forcing us to leave,” Ntodi said. “My mother was a secretary and my father was an accountant, but they wanted the best possible education for us. Why wouldn’t you take advantage of an opportunity if it presented itself?”
Her good fortune continued throughout her life. In high school, she had wonderful mentors – teachers and fellow students who offered her advice, guidance and an open door whenever she needed to talk. And as she prepared to go to college, she knew her blood ran Kentucky blue.
“I never considered anywhere else,” said the senior nursing major of choosing to attend the University of Kentucky. “I am a Wildcat, and the fact that the nursing school is one of the best in the country solidified my decision.”
But, Ntodi knew finances would be an issue. She expected to take out a number of loans to pay for her UK education. Like many first generation college students, she knew that being the first in her family to attend college would present a challenge, and without the proper support, she could struggle academically, financially and socially.
However, true to form, Ntodi received all of the help she needed. A Hearst Scholar and William C. Parker Diversity Scholarship recipient, she did not have to worry about financing her education. She could focus on her studies and on getting involved on campus where she learned valuable organization and leadership skills that helped her in her chosen career. She also works as a floating technician at Albert B. Chandler Hospital, where she has the opportunity to learn about different areas of nursing.
“I always thought that I would want to work in pediatrics, but it was so difficult,” Ntodi said. “It was different than I expected, and I found I loved labor and delivery. The patients are always so happy, and it is exciting to be a part of bringing a life into this world.”
She joined the African Students Association and was elected vice president of her nursing class. And as part of the Hearst Scholarship, she participated in the First Generation Program, where she was assigned a mentor – a young man studying dentistry, who helped her through her first year of nursing school – and served as a mentor for underclassmen.
“I have always had great mentors who helped me,” Ntodi said. “They made a great impact on my life, and I want to give other students that same experience. I want kids to be able to see mentors who are in college and doing well and look up to them and want to follow them.”
In Lexington, Ntodi serves as a mentor through the Mashburn Scholarship program, reaching out to students in Fayette County high school students, encouraging them to consider and to transition to college. In Ghana, her native country, Ntodi is launching Inspire Me, a mentorship program to help Ghanaian young women and girls.
In July, Ntodi was named the runner-up in the Miss Ghana USA pageant. She ran on a platform of empowering young women and girls through mentorship. In December, after she graduates, she plans to visit Ghana to launch her Inspire Me campaign.
“Women and females in Ghana have always been looked at as submissive,” Ntodi said. “It is important for girls to be empowered and to know their place in the world. They need to know that they can achieve whatever they want to.”
Working with two other nonprofit agencies in Ghana, Ntodi will match college-aged mentors with girls in a Ghanaian village. Ntodi will set the program in motion in December and monitor it from Lexington. Currently, she is raising money for her trip and collecting diapers and school supplies to take with her.
“Ghana is part of who I am,” Ntodi said. “I was born and raised there, and it is only right for me to stay close to my roots by helping the people there. I eventually want Inspire Me to become a nationwide program so that I can help all girls know their worth and their place in the world.”
After she returns from Ghana, Ntodi plans to take the NCLEX and become a full-time nurse in labor and delivery at Chandler Hospital and possibly a traveling nurse. In 2018, through UK’s International Center, she participated in Shoulder-to-Shoulder’s medical brigade, spending a week in Ecuador providing quality healthcare to residents in need.
“Going to Ecuador opened my eyes,” Ntodi said. “There is so much more to life than what I see. There is more to do. I want to help others and work with different agencies so that I can make a difference throughout the world.”
Eventually, Ntodi would like to earn her doctorate and become a nurse practitioner, but she said none of what she has accomplished in her four years would have been possible without her donors.
“All of the support I received was helpful emotionally and academically,” Ntodi said. “A lot of people I know had to work multiple jobs to pay for their tuition, and that reflected on how they performed academically. I did not have to worry about that. Their support gave me peace of mind and allowed me to earn a good education so I can continue making a difference.”