Editor's note: This article is part of the ASU Foundation's ongoing work to celebrate Black philanthropy at ASU.
Jason Amoako-Agyei started his college career as a nursing student but soon realized that the bedside wasn't the right place for him. He remained passionate about the field in which much of his family works but decided that he was more inclined to work behind the scenes. Today, Amoako-Agyei is a rising senior in Arizona State University's College of Health Solutions, where he studies health care administration and policy.
When Amoako-Agyei isn't in class, he spends much of his time connecting Black communities at ASU. He currently serves as external vice president of ASU's Black African Coalition, which works to unify students of African descent to support the success of Black community members, increase the visibility of Black life and be an advocate for the interests of Black students and organizations.
Here, Amoako-Agyei discusses ASU's Black communities, his leadership experience, the importance of philanthropy and more.
Question: How did you get started in this community?
Answer: I started in my junior year, so quite late, but that was mostly because of the impact of COVID. I was exposed to more of Black ASU around my junior year, which showed me the importance of highlighting Black ASU and the Black experience at ASU.
At a school this big, it's difficult to find your footing, to find where you belong if you don't know where to look. I was new to the school. I didn't know if I fit in. I still doubted whether I should have gone to a historically Black college or university (HBCU) to be in a place where I felt more comfortable. But after I found this space, although it was smaller, it felt like home. And because it was small, you could get to know everyone very well.
You're able to host events where everyone can feel included, to create a family-like environment. Our goal is to create the feeling of a mini HBCU where we can feel that we belong, that we have a tradition, that we have values and that we have things that you'll find at universities established in the cultural context.
Q: How did you get involved with the Black African Coalition?
A: I actually started in the Black African Coalition as part of the African Student Association this past school year. I was the vice president of community engagement and recruiting for the African Student Association. It was our first year back on campus after the pandemic. And so, in working with the African Student Association, I became much more involved on campus in the Black community.
We were registered as part of the Black African Coalition, so we worked closely with many Black leaders on campus and hosted many events highlighting the diaspora. Since then, I've become more involved and joined the board directly as the external vice president.
Q: What do you do as external vice president?
A: As external vice president, my responsibilities include being in contact with organizations and entities outside of just the Black African Coalition. We focus on highlighting the existence of students of any minority or any marginalized group here on campus. And then I also work with alumni organizations that get involved with, for example, bringing speakers to campus. And then I also work on anything involving philanthropy.
Q: What does philanthropy mean to you?
A: Philanthropy is going to be my main focus for this next school year, and I've thought about this in depth. Everyone wants to be involved in philanthropy, but they don't know how they can get involved. Philanthropy is just providing anyone who has a dream the access, resources and opportunities to achieve that dream.
Your time, money, contacts — anything you can give someone to help them achieve a dream — is a form of philanthropy. When looking at Black philanthropy on campus, donations are incredible, and donors are highly valued in our organization. But so are people who can provide their time and come to speak to students about career and life advice. As college students, we're in the most transformative years of our lives, and it's really important that we have guidance and mentors to ensure we're going in the right direction.
Q: Have you benefited from philanthropy?
A: I'm on the New American University Scholarship, so my tuition is covered right now. And to be honest, that's really provided me the opportunity to get more involved on campus. It's allowed me to focus on matters that aren't necessarily financial, which has been a game changer.
I don't know how my college career would have been different if I had to focus on my tuition while also trying to be an involved student. So having my tuition covered and not having to focus on that has truly been a blessing.
Q: What does mentorship mean to you?
A: I'm currently a mentee in the YP Connect mentorship program. It's part of the Urban League of Young Professionals, and this is a program I believe every single Black student at ASU should apply to.
In working with the Urban League of Young Professionals, I grew my competence immensely and learned everything I needed to know about starting my career in corporate America. I practiced my interviews. I learned financial management. I learned how to create a LinkedIn profile — I didn't have a LinkedIn profile before the Urban League. I was able to land my first internship. I was able to connect with incredible people.
And that's going to be a lasting partnership. I was in a cohort of only five other students, and there were way more mentors available than there were mentees. If more students applied to be in this program, I can't even imagine how much of an impact they would have. They'd be incredible.
Q: What would you tell a student — especially a Black student — first coming to ASU?
A: I would let them know that they are not alone. It can be very easy to get lost at such a big school. But it's a beautiful school because it's so big. There are so many opportunities everywhere you look. Don't be afraid to branch out. This is your time to shine. And as long as you know who you are and that there are people here to support you, you'll do just fine.
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