When George Nkrumah Meizah was growing up in Ghana, he would view American films and surprise what it would be like to dwell in the United States.
“I generally required to appear here,” he explained.
Mr. Meizah, 22, was lifted by his mom. When he was 2, his father moved to the United States and barely retained in contact. Within a couple of many years, he remarried and commenced a 2nd family members in the Bronx.
Inspite of their strained romantic relationship, Mr. Meizah’s father provided to assistance his son emigrate to New York to go after a superior schooling. When he was 17, Mr. Meizah bade his mom farewell and crossed the Atlantic to move in with his father and stepmother.
Mr. Meizah was enthusiastic, but it took him time to modify. He had trust issues and did not make friends quickly in superior college. “I research folks before I mingle with them,” he mentioned.
At dwelling, he slept in the dwelling area of his father’s two-bedroom apartment. It was awkward, getting up space and residing with a family that grew to consist of two half siblings and his stepmother’s daughter from a earlier relationship.
In a several months of Mr. Meizah’s arrival in the United States, his father started off tracking his cellular phone phone calls and textual content messages, and forbade him to get in touch with his mother in Ghana, Mr. Meizah reported. He resorted to borrowing income from his friends and secretly buying phone playing cards to connect with her.
Following approximately two decades, Mr. Meizah opened up to his advice counselor, Cedric Hawkins. Mr. Meizah wanted to run absent from residence. Together, they talked over his alternatives, which includes youth shelters and other providers to assist preserve him on a path toward college or university.
Mr. Meizah ran absent in 2016 although his father was at a barber store. He went to a men’s shelter in Manhattan and then to a transitional dwelling center in close proximity to his faculty that presented academic and vocational counseling and workshops on life expertise, these as budgeting and personal hygiene. He lived there for most of his senior calendar year. “I truly beloved it,” he claimed.
Over time, Mr. Hawkins discovered a alter in Mr. Meizah. “I think that was the 1st time in his lifetime that he was a kid,” he explained. “He just started off to blossom as a man or woman mainly because he had self-confidence.”
Mr. Meizah did not enable his troubles get in the way of his schoolwork: He was the valedictorian of his significant faculty course when he graduated in 2017. He also received a scholarship and a slot in summer months university prep lessons from the Larger Schooling Option System, which gives educational assist and fiscal aid to deprived learners.
He attained six college or university credits just before he aged out of the youth shelter and enrolled at St. Thomas Aquinas Faculty in Sparkill, N.Y. Mr. Hawkins and his spouse and children picked Mr. Meizah up at the shelter and aided him transfer into his dorm place.
“He took me in as 1 of his own,” Mr. Meizah said of Mr. Hawkins. “I felt like I was aspect of a serious loved ones, which I by no means seriously experienced.”
He to begin with majored in clinical know-how but struggled to grasp the materials and terminology. Rather, he made the decision to study art therapy, a kind of psychotherapy in which mental well being industry experts use painting, drawing and other forms of artwork to motivate clients to investigate thoughts that may perhaps be difficult to express in phrases.
When he was in higher college, an artwork trainer experienced assisted him sharpen his painting and drawing competencies. Mr. Meizah seemed forward to his opinions and preferred to develop into a improved painter. He also identified that pouring his feelings onto a blank canvas or a website page in a sketchbook was soothing and therapeutic.
Now a junior, he is also pursuing a slight in communications. In his sophomore calendar year, he joined the observe-and-area crew as a substantial jumper. His towering figure — he is 6 toes 7 inches tall — is effective to his edge.
The scholarship from the Greater Instruction Possibility System has been covering his housing, meal strategy, textbooks and a substantial part of his tuition. It also granted him a operate-examine task in the campus mailroom.
Right before his freshman year, Mr. Meizah obtained one more scholarship from Children’s Aid, one particular of the 7 companies supported by The New York Instances Neediest Conditions Fund. It has aided Mr. Meizah shoulder the remaining tuition prices. He now is effective a second element-time task at a Quit & Shop supermarket to pay back off his university student financial loan debt, which is presently about $10,000.
In April, Children’s Aid made use of $505 from the Neediest Conditions Fund to pay out Mr. Meizah’s cellphone monthly bill and to acquire him gift playing cards from Modell’s and Cease & Shop. He employed them to get groceries, functioning shorts and T-shirts.
Right after he graduates, Mr. Meizah hopes to go after a master’s degree in artwork therapy. His lengthy-expression intention, he claimed, is to enable kids and older individuals who have trauma to convey on their own via painting, sketching or drawing.
Mr. Meizah does not brag about his artwork, but Mr. Hawkins explained he has talent. Just after he confirmed Mr. Meizah a snapshot from a family getaway, Mr. Meizah painted it and gave it to him as a gesture of many thanks for his help.
When Mr. Meizah graduated from substantial university, he introduced his principal with a serene painting of mountains guiding a waterfall cascading into a stream. It nonetheless hangs in her office environment.
His very first, and most loved, portray is of himself: He is kneeling in a physique of water underneath a starry sky as a woman pours golden liquid on his head. He painted it immediately after he still left his father’s residence. Its theme, he explained, is emancipation or liberty. It symbolizes the moment he realized he could convey himself devoid of concern.
“Now I feel improved,” he stated. “I experience no cost.”
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