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Carmen Tettekpoe, shares what it means to be a First Generation Immigrant from Ghana

Carmen Tettekpoe, shares what it means to be a First Generation Immigrant from Ghana.

  JCHS’ Carmen Tettekpoe serves as a reminder that education should not be taken for granted.

Carmen Tettekpoe was only 11 years old when she arrived in the United States for the first time. She wondered if it would be anything like the books she had read. 

She came from a small country called Ghana, located off the coast of West Africa. 

Carmen had aspirations from a young age to come to America for an opportunity to learn, so that someday she could give back to her community. Education is her number one priority and being here has been life-changing for her.

Since there are not enough schools or resources back in Ghana, according to Carmen, not all students get the chance to attend high school. The school year is cut down into four months,  which isn't enough time to fully learn. 

“Because of the way it's scheduled you can't really learn much… so most people end up working labor jobs,” said Carmen.

Due to the differing educational systems back home in Ghana, Carmen’s father insisted she come to the United States alongside him to embark on her educational journey. 

Carmen’s father moved to the U.S. when she was merely two years old. His plan was to begin building a future here so that someday his daughter could join him.

When Carmen turned eleven, her father flew her to the States to live with him and enrolled her into school. Like any caring parent wanting the best for their children, he made it his goal to give her the opportunities she would not have gotten back home.

“My father moved here to give me a chance of having a better future; he is the reason that I get to have this experience,” said Carmen.

Initially the cultural change came as a shock to her. She was used to being comfortable and familiar with her surroundings. She had to find ways to adjust to the new environment that she now called home.

Although she loves her choice of moving here, she also had to make sacrifices of her own in the transition. She had to leave behind her mother and extended family; this was not easy for her since she cannot see them the way she’d like to see them.

Aside from the sacrifices she has made, she appreciates and values all that is offered here. She finds herself belonging here in Jackson County, where diversity is embraced. 

Before moving to the States, Carmen taught herself English by reading books that her father would send home to her. Learning a foreign language came naturally to her. 

“Before I moved here I already knew English because I have always read a lot of books. I would tell my father to send me books from here when I still lived in West Africa,” she said. 

Carmen is fluent in several languages —English, Twi, Ga, and Ewe. Since arriving at her new home here, she has learned French and Spanish.

“When I was a kid my parents would speak both of their native languages, that helped with my ability to absorb new languages,” said Carmen. 

She is immersing herself into all academic opportunities and striving for excellence. Most recently Carmen was nominated for the Governor's Honors Program in the subject of French; she will advance in the next round of the GHP.

Being involved in several extracurricular activities is important to Carmen and her path to success. She is in the French Honor Society, GHP and Ivy Program. She is also involved in drama and chorus.

“Jackson County is a great school, we have a great system. My father heard wonderful things about the school so he bought a new house in Jackson County when I moved here,” said Carmen.

As a first generation immigrant, Carmen says she encourages her classmates to embrace the opportunities they are afforded here in Jackson County. 

Her message is a reminder to realize the opportunities that are before her fellow students, and never to take them for granted. 

“She has such a passion for learning, drive to succeed, and desire to give back to her family, community, and those back in her native country who do not have the same opportunities that she has now,” said MTSS Coordinator Sherry Beauchamp.

“I have no doubt that Carmen will be a world changer, and I am just grateful I had the opportunity to hear her story. I told her that I was supposed to be mentoring her for the upcoming interview for GHP, but she ended up blessing me instead.” 

Touching the hearts of others within her community by sharing her story is one way Carmen is able to serve here in Jackson County. 

Carmen plans to go to college and become a neurosurgeon once she graduates. After building a firm foundation for herself in the future, she desires to return home to Ghana, where she hopes to start a foundation to give better access to education for everyone.

Her aspirations to give back to others is her motivation for her hard work and dedication. She hopes that someday she can be part of changing the world. For now she starts her mission at JCHS.

“One thing I’d like to share with others would be to take advantage of what you have and take a moment to appreciate what you do have because there is someone out there, somewhere in the world with way less than you,” Carmen said.