Edgewood High School’s Simona Arkorful was among 25 students awarded a $40,000 scholarship live Wednesday on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”
“The [financial] burden was really lifted off my shoulders,” Arkorful, 17, of Edgewood, told The Aegis in an interview Wednesday afternoon after the segment aired.
She plans to attend Howard University in Washington, D.C., where she will study psychology. She anticipates going on to earn a doctoral degree and specialize in neuropsychology as a career.
“I’ve always been really interested in how the brain works,” Arkorful said.
During the segment, the GMA hosts welcomed David Coleman, CEO of the College Board, who announced the scholarships as the 25 students reacted with shock and excitement.
“You are an inspiration for every high school student that they too can take small steps to make their futures bigger,” Coleman said. “That’s why I’m exhilarated to announce that the College Board is awarding each of you a $40,000 scholarship to claim your big future. Congratulations.”
The nonprofit College Board launched the College Board Opportunity Scholarship in 2018 to provide students with the chance to earn money for college by completing various parts of the application process, according to a GMA article.
Students earn entry into separate $500 drawings for each of the six steps they complete: building a college list, practicing for the SAT, exploring scholarships, strengthening their college list, completing the FAFSA and applying to colleges.
Once students make it through all six steps, they are entered to receive $40,000 scholarships.
Arkorful said she and the other high school seniors spent about an hour and a half together, getting to know each other, before the live GMA segment. She had been prepared to answer interview questions about applying to college during the pandemic.
She noted that the COVID-19 pandemic “is really its own experiment” in how sudden changes in life and isolation from others affects the brain and how those impacts, in turn, affect the body. That, as well as a course in AP psychology her junior year of high school, sparked her interest in neuropsychology and studying how changes in the brain affect people’s bodies and behaviors.
Arkorful said her “heart dropped” after hearing from Coleman that she and her fellow seniors were not only eligible to seek a College Board scholarship, but that it was being awarded to them.
“I thought I was going to be able to apply for a scholarship, not be granted one on the spot,” she said.
Arkorful is the youngest of three daughters raised by a single mother, Augusta Sampong, who immigrated to the United States from the West African nation of Ghana in 1995. Her oldest sister, Vanessa Owusu, is a student at St. John’s University in Queens, New York, and her middle sister, Francesca Arkorful, attends the University of California, Berkeley.
Sampong works as a histotechnologist in a private laboratory, preparing microscope slides for pathologists working to diagnose diseases, and she has an associate’s degree from a community college. Sampong’s daughters are the first in their family to attend four-year schools.
“Over the years, we’ve come a long way,” Sampong said. “I’ve struggled, I’ve done so much to raise these kids by myself.”
She discussed how proud she is that her youngest daughter earned the College Board scholarship and that she is proud of all of her children’s achievements, which include earning various college scholarships. She has stressed to her daughters the values of prayer, hard work and that “education is the only way” to achieve their goals and become self-sufficient adults.
“I think the best thing a mother should do is encourage their kids . . . it takes hard work to become somebody,” Sampong said.
She praised her youngest daughter for her work ethic, noting that she helps around the house, works and still studies hard and earns good grades in school. She also noted her daughter has friends “who also like to study all the time.”
“She’s a great achiever, she’s a very hard worker so I think she deserves it,” Sampong said of the College Board scholarship.
The $40,000 scholarship will cover the cost of a year and a half at Howard, a private historically black university. Arkorful plans to hold internships and a job during college, as well as participate in work-study programs to help cover the costs. She also works at the Target store in Abingdon and has a goal of earning $10,000 there before going to college so she starts with a financial foundation and takes on less debt.
“That’s the greatest head start that I could ask for,” she said of the scholarship.
Howard University, she said, “has always been my dream school, and I didn’t want to cost to be the reason” she could not attend. Arkorful has wanted to attend a historically black college or university and cited the prestige of Howard, founded in 1867 just a few years after the Civil War.
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“I wanted to go somewhere I belong and have peers that have the same aspirations as me,” Arkorful said.