“What I realized is too many young people suffer from mental health. Most of the things I’ve done is advocacy, but I don't want to just advocate, I want to create a solution. Advocacy is solving half of the problem, but getting in and solving the problem — stepping in — that is the kind of state I want to take my life in now.”
Gideon Amponsah, junior, accounting and finance

Gideon Amponsah: From advocate to social entrepreneur

Gideon Amponsah was born to serve.

Amponsah was raised in Nima, Accra, one of the most impoverished areas in Ghana, Africa. Today he is an activist, social entrepreneur, and Minot State University accounting and finance student.

“When I tell people that I grew up in Nima the first thing that comes to mind is that, ‘how do you become who you are when you grow up in Nima?’ We have our own challenges, but it’s a great place to live,” Amponsah said.

When Amponsah was 10-years-old, public speaking changed his life’s trajectory.

“I said a poem at church and someone thought I said it with so much confidence, that I would do well in radio. She took me to the group and over the years the group has helped me become an activist,” Amponsah said. “What we did was we understood our children’s challenges, rights, and responsibilities. Those were the times when people thought that children were just supposed to be seen and not heard. Or sometimes not seen at all. So, we stood against these things.

“I grew up with awesome parents. I had four sisters and only one brother. From people that we spoke to and the people that we came across in doing our activism, we realized that many people didn’t have opportunities to even go to school, and especially for young females. People thought that a kitchen belongs to women. That women should be kept in isolated places.”

Children and Youth in Broadcasting (CYIB) was established in 1996 when young people from Ghana were asked to present issues pertinent to them on the radio for National Children’s Day, an annual day set aside to focus on children’s rights. Children and teenagers continue to host and produce “Curious Minds,” a twice-weekly radio program committed to bringing youth voices into the mainstream press in Ghana.

In 2008, CYIB “Curious Minds” was named radio winner of the UNICEF International Children’s Day of Broadcasting Award. Amponsah, then 12, and the program’s producer, Naa Aforkor Tetteh, 16, traveled to New York City to represent the 500 member-strong group with their director, Kingsley Obeng-Kyere.

“He’s influenced me and most of the things I did,” Amponsah said about Obeng-Kyere.

Amponsah attended Ghana Senior High School, Koforidua, serving as head prefect and head of the student representative council until making the move to Minot, N.D.

“I decided to school abroad,” he said. “Some of the people I look up to, my role models, Kofi Annan (Secretary-General for the United Nations from 1997-2006) and Kwame Nkrumah (first president of Ghana), both studied abroad. I thought this (Minot State) was a safe environment and my parents like the slogan: Be Seen. Be Heard. They thought, ‘it’s home.’ And when we (were) checking online it said ‘a home away from home.’ It’s been awesome being here. The people are ready to support, especially the faculty.”

Amponsah has made an impression on nearly everyone he has met at Minot State.

“I first met Gideon in January of 2016. He had just arrived from Accra, some 6,500 miles away,” Kevin Harmon, Minot State Vice President for Student Affairs, said. “Gideon struck me as being very sincere and grateful to be attending Minot State or any university, for that matter. He opened my eyes to the fact that we are his Harvard.

“He is proud to be a student, and he was ready to study. His work ethic is outstanding and his willingness to put the hours into his studies is what distinguishes him from many students. Gideon’s approach to his studies is that it’s a seven day a week job to him. He does very well in school and it’s not by accident.”

Amponsah’s drive and dedication led to his acceptance as a United Nations Youth Assembly delegate and fellowship recipient from The Resolution Project in 2017. The Resolution Project is a nonprofit dedicated to empowering young leaders to create solutions for issues affecting communities around the world. The Fellowship provides seed funding, advisory support, access to resources, and community to young social entrepreneurs like Amponsah.

“Most of the work I had done was active about education, children’s rights, and young people’s development (prior to 2017),” he said. “I wanted to do something different (with my fellowship). I got inspired to start a project on mental health. I called it My Health — My Wellbeing. It’s the goal to help reduce stigmas around mental health.

“Sometimes with social enterprises, you have to start small. So the goal that I presented to the U.N. was to start that in Ghana, mainly for young people with mental illness.”

During summer 2018, Amponsah spent some time at the Panteng Hospital, a psychiatric hospital in Accra.

"What I realized is too many young people suffer from mental health. Most of the things I’ve done is advocacy, but I don’t want to just advocate, I want to create a solution. Advocacy is solving half of the problem, but getting in and solving the problem — stepping in — that is the kind of state I want to take my life in now,” Amponsah said.

Adding to his impressive resume, Amponsah spent the summer of 2018 interning in the U.S. Senate for the office of Senator Heidi Heitkamp and in the Ghana Chief of Staff’s office.

“It was great, the main goal was to understand government,” Amponsah said about his experience in the U.S. Senate. “I think it’s good to learn from the best. It was an opportunity for me to be in the best legislative body in the world. You can tell how proud people act to be an American. People get opportunities to become who they want to be (in America.) I know a lot of inspiring young people in Ghana that could do more than they have done if they are given the support.”

Amponsah entered his internship for the office of Ghana’s first female Chief of Staff, Akosua Frema Osei-Opare, looking toward the future.

“A college degree and his experience here at Minot State are going to change his world,” Harmon said. “He wants to return to Ghana and make a difference in the lives of his countrymen. Gideon is a great listener; he listens to understand rather than to respond. He flourishes on committees and projects because he’s an excellent teammate.”

“I’ve met a lot of people that I’m grateful for,” Amponsah said. “They’ve been very supportive. Every single investment they have made in my life is important to me. Because I feel that someday I can help. Because I’ve been there. I think I was born to serve.”