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Adu achieves his American dream at Otterbein

Adu achieves his American dream at Otterbein

For Justice Adu, earning his master’s degree at Otterbein was part of his American Dream. The other part was bringing his family to the United States to celebrate with him.

Adu, who emigrated from Ghana to the United States in 2008, earned his master of arts degree in educational mathematics from Otterbein University in 2015, but chose to delay his graduation one year until his family could be there to celebrate with him. His wife, Naa Adoley Pappoe, and 1-year-old son, Justice, were still living in Ghana at the time Adu was scheduled to graduate.

These days, Adu has much to celebrate — his family is reunited, he is an American citizen, and he holds a master’s degree from the school he loves.

“I am most grateful to God for the opportunity we have as a family to live our American dream,” he said.

You could call Adu lucky. He won the lottery as part of the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program run by the U.S. Department of State. The program provides for a class of immigrants known as “diversity immigrants” from countries with historically low rates of immigration to the United States. For 2017, only 50,000 Diversity Visas will be available.

“The people selected are given a permanent resident card,” Adu explained. “Every year, from October to November, the lottery is open. To qualify, you have to be at least a high school graduate, and have to pass in English and math. I kept applying and applying, then luckily, I won. I was selected. The living standard in Ghana is not the best. Almost everybody wants to come to America.”

Columbus, Ohio was his landing spot, first in Dec. 2008 to get his green card, then finally for good in June of 2009 after finishing up his bachelor’s degree in mathematics education from the University of Cape Coast.

“Some people who had been to the U.S. told me the first time coming to America, Columbus would be the best place to start,” Adu said. “They said there are a lot of Africans and Ghanaians in Columbus. That’s why I came here.

“The difficult part is that when you come here, you have to start life all over,” Adu added. “When I got here, I didn’t know anybody so I had to start from scratch.”

Adu, 38, worked a number of jobs to support himself and save enough money to go back to school for his master’s degree in mathematics education so that he could teach in the United States. Adu taught mathematics, general science and English in junior and senior high schools in Ghana for about nine years.

“As a teacher in Ghana, I was on the government payroll,” Adu said. “People ask why would I come here and start life all over again? The money that I was making over there, I couldn’t even send my son to the best basic school. I could not pay the school fees. Right now, where I’m working, what I earn in one week is enough to pay a high school teacher in Ghana.”

Adu enrolled at Otterbein in May of 2013, going to school part-time while working in the warehouse of Thirty-One Gifts as a print shop associate.

Over the course of his two years at Otterbein, Adu became a U.S. citizen in June of 2014 and his son was born later that year in October.

“I was here in school during the birth of my child,” Adu said. “We did video calls. They have Wi-Fi and I had mine. When he was a baby, I called about 10 times a day and video chatted twice a week so I could see his face.”

Adu gives credit to his advisor, Jeff Smith, associate professor in the Department of Mathematics, for helping him through the process or earning his degree and bringing his family to the U.S. The family, following a six-month delay, was finally reunited Dec. 9, 2015, and Naa Adoley and little Justice were able to witness his graduation held last April 30.

For the moment, Adu is working full-time as a packaging technician at West-Ward Pharmaceuticals Corp. in Columbus while applying for teaching positions at community colleges, including Columbus State Community College. Eventually, he would like to pursue a doctorate degree.


Learn more about a master of arts in educational mathematics at Otterbein.