In a remarkable feat that has left many awe-struck, a Ghanaian prodigy has shattered all barriers, achieving what very few in the country could even fathom.
At the tender age of 14, this exceptional young talent etched his name in history by gaining admission into university, an achievement previously believed to be reserved for older, more experienced scholars.
This extraordinary tale of resilience, dedication, and unparalleled intellect serves as a beacon of inspiration for Ghana's academic landscape.
Born in the year 1998 to Ghanaian parents, Dr. Dominic Dalyngton Damoah and Florence Owiredua Dankwah, Dominic Damoah was the first of four children.
He attended Sylvester Elementary in Berrien Springs Michigan till 2008, when the family decided to move back home.
“I remember December 25th, 2008 like it was yesterday. That was the day that my dad, my mom, my brother, and I landed at the Kotoka International Airport from the United States of America. Michigan to be exact.
“My dad had just completed his Master Degree Program in software engineering. I was in the fifth grade, planning to move on to the sixth grade in America, but that had to be cut short due to our trip back to Ghana.
“And here we were. Christmas day, hot weather, back in Ghana to start a brand new life.
"When we arrived, the next few weeks were spent trying to figure out a school for me to attend. I remember there was a school around Oyibi called Accra Grammar School.
"That was the school my parents settled on. In my opinion, aside from the fact that the class sizes were petite, it was a perfect pick for my dad. I was in the fifth grade in transition to the sixth grade, and I was 10 turning 11.
“Unfortunately, that school did not have a sixth grade because they didn't have the students or the numbers for it,” Dominic recalled.
According to him, navigating a new educational system and leaving behind the familiarity of the United States, was a journey unlike any other.
The quest to find a suitable school in Ghana led to an unexpected opportunity - acceptance into a seventh-grade class in a school that lacked a sixth-grade at the time.
With the support and some determination, Dominic proved beyond reasonable doubt that he deserved a spot and the school authorities allowed him into the seventh grade. This leap ultimately paved the way for an exceptional future.
“They accepted me. It was extra money for them. And I mean, they could groom me to become a really good student.
“So, basically I started my new class and I had to compete with people that had been in the Ghanaian educational system since forlong.
“I had to compete with three other really, really strong students.
“I remember my first time in that school I struggled. I had a lot of 9s. This was mainly because the US education system is completely different from the Ghanaian education system.
“From what I can say, the US education system rewards understanding, creative thinking and putting things on your own terms, whilst the Ghanaian education system rewards your ability to recount and recall textbook definitions, or your ability to say things the exact same way they were said to you.
“Nonetheless, I joined, and I was a pretty bad student. So, my class teacher, Mr. Alfred Asare decided to pair me up with one of my classmates. She was outstanding. Her name was Daisy.
“I am not sure of her last name or where she is now, but shout out to her too,” Dominic said with a smile.
Giving more details, Dominic explained that his handwriting was terrible because he was used to writing cursive.
He explained that everyone who had been to an American elementary school learnt cursive, so he had to re-learn how to write his alphabets all over again.
“Daisy helped me figure that out and she kind of taught me how she, would study. I noticed that it wasn't really a matter of stating things in your own terms or explaining things in your own experience or anything like that and every term after that, I kept improving.
“In eighth grade, that is the year after that, the class grew from four to six and when we were finally ready to go write the Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE), the class grew from six to eight, if I'm not mistaken,” he said.
Continuing his story, Dominic said he was surprised to find out that after the BECE, the government determines which school you should be posted to.
“I was 13 at the time and I was definitely one of the youngest people in my class. We took the exam in Ghanata Senior High School.
“It's a school around Dodowa. We took the exam there and I came out with an aggregate eight. I was so proud. I was like, ‘wow, I did it’. Now, it was time to come home and wait for posting.
“I didn't know back then, but after you get that aggregate or you get that score, the government decides where you're going to go to school. So, we were waiting for that.
“For my posting or my government posting to the senior high school, I think my choices were Presby Boys Legon, West African Senior High School and Adventist something.
“But usually, people care about the first, so for me, that was Presec. I didn't even know what Presby Boys Legon was, to be honest, but my parents had done some consulting by calling my auntie and everybody else who cared about that kind of thing and they got back to me with Presec as my first choice.
“When the results finally came out, I got posted to my second choice. Later, on in life, I got to understand why but back then I had no idea.
“It was during this waiting period that my dad came up with the idea that changed my life and set me on a different path.”
Dominic said amidst the hurdles of transitioning into the Ghanaian educational environment, he stumbled upon a treasure trove of software engineering books left behind by his father.
What began as a mere curiosity about Java, HTML, and PHP swiftly metamorphosed into a genuine passion for computer science, setting the stage for extraordinary accomplishments in the field.
“During the time my dad spent in the United States, he bought a lot of books because his scholarship allowed him to purchase books and have the university pay for them. He had tons and tons of books and all these books had something to do with software engineering.
“I would say we had an entire room full of books. He was big on books. I think it was a thing back in the early 2000s. Engineers, developers, students, computer scientists, everybody had books. I'm talking about books from O 'Reilly, books from Sam's Publishing, and books from the Headfirst series.
“The first book I selected was on learning HTML in a week. I did not know what HTML was and I was curious to know how someone could learn HTML in seven days. When I opened the book to check out the content, there was a study guide for each day of the week, starting from one Friday to the next.
“Basically, you go through one chapter a day. And by the end of the seven-day period, you should be able to write HTML. It was while reading that book that I saw a pattern.
“It turns out HTML is a language and I was interested in learning it.
“I spent my whole waiting period reading one book after the next. When I had difficulty understanding something, I asked my dad and I must say he was impressed and happy about my new found love.
“It was also what gave him the idea for me to pursue the American High School Diploma program at the university he was teaching at the time.
“My dad was a lecturer at the Computer Science Department at Valley View University. He told me there was this American High School Diploma program that Griggs offers the University, which is one of the sister universities to Andrews University, where he attended.
“He explained that they were running a two-semester program and every semester was around three months of training, and then you take the exam.
“He said if you pass, you get the opportunity to come to university.
“So here I am, 13 years old and not sure what to do but he motivated me by telling me that the things that I'm learning at home are the same things that I will probably be doing.
“Again, since it was just two semesters, I could always join my peers in the senior high school should things not work out and after another set of consultation, we were ready for me to be enrolled.”
Although, this was an excellent idea, Dominic had some fears. Apart from the courses, he was worried his age will disqualify him but those fears were rubbished by the Director of the American High School Diploma program at the time, Dr. S.S Boateng.
“He essentially looked at the rules regarding admitting people into the program and he was as open-minded as my dad was, and that's one thing that I really like about him.
“He looked at the rules, and there was no restriction on the age of the applicant or the age of the student. So I could be seven or six years old for all they care as long as you can pay the fees and you're willing to take the program.
“I also didn't need to have my BECE certificate to apply. Less than an hour into the meeting, they agreed and I was scheduled to join the next semester and as if fate would have it, that next semester was just a few weeks away.”
Embracing an unconventional and unparalleled opportunity, Dominic started the American High School Diploma program at Valley View University.
This program was tailored for students who hadn't excelled in traditional exams. It offered a platform for him to showcase his exceptional knowledge and skills acquired through self-study and he was ready for it.
“The first day I got to the American High School Center, it was packed. This is like a room that could contain around a hundred students and it was packed. I remember entering the room from the back so I didn't have the opportunity to follow my dad’s advice to always sit in front.
“I saw that they were learning algebra, which is one of the courses that we had to take. I sat behind one guy, and during the session, he asked if I understood what was being taught.
“He had a beard and guessing his age, I could place him between 18 and 20.
“He said ‘Bro, I am completely lost, do you understand this?’ and I said yes, I do. Let’s meet after class. This was because I noticed the topic that we were being taught was Surds, and I had read on it. That gave me the boost that I needed to understand that what I was going to be studying wasn't going to be rocket science. And from that day, the rest they say is history,” Dominic said.
With unmatched dedication and a keen mind, young Dominic blazed a trail of academic brilliance, rising to the top echelons of the American High School Diploma program.
His brilliance shone like a beacon, earning him praise and recognition from peers and instructors alike.
“We took around seven courses if I'm not mistaken. There was Algebra, Biology, Literature, Earth Science, History and some two others.
“I remember there was a lot of pressure, especially on me. I had to do a lot to avoid the risk of going back to the regular Senior High School with my peers. By this time, my friend had heard of my admission and while failure may seem normal to some, I knew how embarrassed I would be if I failed and had to go back to SHS.
“For me, failing this programme was not an option, hence, it didn’t come as a surprise to my parents when out of the 100 students for the first semester, I came second.
“This was also because of one course, literature. That subject was the only one I had like an A minus. The other guy had all As, and I had all As and one A minus in literature. That's what placed me second.
“The Director at the time was amazed that I could do that.
“The next semester, we had been studying for four months. I had friends, I had a study group, some of the members, I still talk to till date. These were all people that were trying to get into a university or college.
“I was going to go on to work with most of these people, especially the guys. Most of them were interested in computer science-related programs. After the eight-month period, our results came in.
“I was the best student this time around out of the same number of over 100 candidates that went to write it. I just knew that I had done it, and I was ready to enter the university.
“At this time, I was 13 and a half, almost 14. I turned 14 in June, and in September of that year, I was officially admitted into Valley View University at the age of 14.
“This is something that had never happened before.”
Delving deeper into his life story, Dominic said he gained admission into Valley View University as a Computer Science major.
This groundbreaking achievement turned heads and elicited admiration from the university community, with many lauding him as a trailblazer and role model for future generations.
“Everybody, almost everybody, was proud of me. Everybody, my dad, my mom, the community there at Valley View University, everybody was proud. Some people didn't think it was possible. Valley View is a Seventh Day Adventist community. Everybody knows everybody. There were people in other Seventh Day Adventist denominations that heard about it. Some of my friends in America heard about it.
“They were like, when they come to Ghana, they're going to do the exact same thing. People started questioning, whether they should take their kids to senior high school or follow my footsteps. Lots of parents started contacting my dad asking him how he did it.
“Some people also started questioning the difficulty of the American high school exam. However, they had a difficult time because I took this exam with people that had apparently failed the West African Senior High School exams.
“I remember one of the first courses we took was programming in C++. This is something I had been doing now for about a few months. You know, most of the students at the university fell in love with the fact that I could help them. I was doing it for free, I was doing it for the fun of it, and I made a lot of friends.
“Eventually, we started spending lots of time in the lab and if you were there a lot, you probably met a guy called Dominic who was always there and was helping all the final year students.
“I remember I helped a whole bunch of them. They still know me till date. Some of the things that I did later on after I graduated were kind of based on the connections that I made in the university.
“I always made it a point to help people out for free,” he recounted.
According to Dominic, after he graduated at the age of 18, accolades and opportunities awaited him.
Earning acclaim in diverse fields, including entrepreneurship, corporate work, government collaborations, and consultancy, he continued to leave an indelible mark wherever he went.
“I ended up graduating in 2016 at the age of 17 and a half, almost 18, with a CGPA of 3.96. I was the best Information Technology student.
“When I graduated, my dad wanted the same opportunities he had in America for me. Given the fact that I'd been here before, he wanted me to do my national service at Valley View University as a teaching assistant.
“After a year, he was going to petition the university to put me under a bond or something of that nature, then get me to do an exchange program in probably the same university or probably another university, which is also Adventist-affiliated and come serve in Valley View University. That was the plan.
“Unfortunately, things did not go the way that I wanted and I ended up doing something else. That is a whole story for another day. “
“I finished my mandatory national service and went on to start an EdTech startup called Schrep®, before going to work at Stanbic Bank and Fidelity Bank.”
Fueled by an insatiable thirst for knowledge and the desire to push boundaries, Dominic now seeks to attain greater heights through a doctoral pursuit at Purdue University, where he aspires to contribute significantly to his chosen field of study.
Just like many before him and after him, Dominic Damoah has etched a narrative that resonates with inspiration and admiration.
He is a beacon of hope and possibility for generations to come.
His journey exemplifies the power of resilience, passion, and tenacity.
While many in Ghana, including friends and family continue to celebrate this exceptional talent, it is evident that the sky is not the limit for this trailblazer, for his dreams know no bounds.
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