I got to know Sandra about two years ago when I taught a class that she was a member of. I clearly remember what I said after I had asked her to introduce herself, as is my practice when I meet students for the first time. “That's my Osofo Maame's (Pastor’s wife’s) name, and you nearly look like her. More so, you look to me as calm and gentle as she is”. Sandra only smiled, as usual of her. It was much later that I would get to learn that both are past students of a popular secondary school in Ghana.
Frankly, I admired Sandra a lot and I made her aware, at least, sometimes. I must say it is not difficult for me to do that at all (hehehe). After a class presentation one day, the impression I had about her as well as my confidence in her soared higher. I recall giving her some advice that I hope she has taken and will pursue. I have decided not to mention exactly what I said because I don't remember telling her in public. But knowing who Sandra is, I know she is more than capable of pursuing that which I told her.
Photo: Sandra in a handshake with the President
Sandra at the recently held graduation ceremony of my university was the Valedictorian, a title used to signify academic success. The valedictorian of a graduation ceremony is the one who delivers a farewell speech on behalf of a graduating class. Such a person is the graduand with the highest ranking or highest final Cumulative Grade Point Average. This feat is not something to take for granted at all. And Sandra being a student in my Department, I was beside myself with joy.
More so, knowing how much she deserved it, I couldn't have felt any less. When it was mentioned in a meeting in which I was present about the likelihood for her to be the valedictorian for the graduation ceremony, I whispered into the ears of a colleague seated next to me that “I'm not surprised”. All I knew about Sandra at the time was the fact that she was a disciplined and bright student. But just like every great person, Sandra has her story too. Her story is one that will move you to hold on to that dream of yours.
Having completed one of the best secondary schools in the country about a decade ago, Sandra found herself on the campus of the University of Ghana to further her education. But whatever dream she had (or should I say her family had for her?) would not be realised. She had accepted an offer to do a programme that she never saw herself pursuing. This venture proved to be a total disaster right from the start. Her disinterest in the programme, coupled with other factors, made a 'failure' out of intelligent and athletic Sandra.
Those moments were trying times in Sandra’s life. Every exam she took was an outright flop. Her family was kept in the dark about her academic struggles as she didn’t want to disappoint them, neither did she seek any proper professional counselling due to naivety. She rather turned to confide in friends whose advice could not help much. Sandra ended her final year with tons of resit papers to clear. At this point, she knew the right thing to do was to inform her family about the happenings with her academics. She could not graduate with her mates.
It was an obvious heavy blow to her family because they knew her to be an intelligent daughter. She attempted to re-sit the failed papers but that would prove even more frustrating as it didn’t turn out any better. In a bid to look for other avenues to excel, she chased after her passion and personal goals. Delightfully, her mother was very supportive. And rather sadly, her father had passed away at the time.
She enrolled in a programme at the Joyce Ababio College of Creative Design to get a vocation in fashion design. That same year she got an opportunity to express her love for the arts by auditioning for and securing a role as a stage performer with Uncle Ebo Whyte's’ Roverman productions.
She also decided to give herself another chance at earning an academic degree. With the support of her family, she applied to study for a degree in Public Relations Management at the University of Professional Studies, Accra. Not allowing her failures to put her down, she regained her academic confidence and niche. Working hard to combine her private fashion design business with studies, Sandra managed to pull through excellently.
Her academic feat did not come by simply folding her arms nor by brooding over her doubts and fears. She had a positive attitude and worked really hard at it. If there is anyone who has deservedly earned a university degree, it is Sandra. She was remarkably disciplined and it showed in everything she did, including turning in assignments on time and giving full attention to lectures.
She tells me she believes her success is the answer to a prayer she said when things started going haywire during her first attempt at getting a university degree. She asked God to bring her to a place where her faith in Him could never be shaken. This prayer is very profound. The good Lord used her academics to prove to her that anything is possible for those who believe in Him.
No matter what life throws at you, no matter how broken and terrible your situation is, it is still possible to right the wrongs and weather the storms of life. Now Sandra has a reason to look back, smile at what God has done in her life and look into the future with the self-assurance that she can be anything she wants to be.
There are many lessons we could draw from Sandra’s story. I will dwell on a few. First, we need to know our calling. Sandra knew her calling, albeit she did not pursue it immediately. This could largely be on account of wanting to satisfy family and societal standards and expectations. Fortunately for her, God had a way of bringing her back to her calling. You may not be as lucky as she was and that will mean groping through the dark to take chances at life, which most likely could end miserably for you.
When you find your passion and purpose, life becomes easy. There is also a great sense of satisfaction you gain even if what you do does not bring in immediate financial returns. It is refreshing to find your niche and I urge you to go for that which brings you inner satisfaction rather than what merely brings you monetary compensation. You will later realise that financial rewards will also not elude you. This is because you become a master of a craft for which you will be deservedly remunerated.
Second, just don’t give up. Sandra did not give up. She decided to take a second shot at life. She looked within her and knew she was capable. The failures could only be a deceptive shadow of her true self. She couldn’t, therefore, resign herself to it. All the twists and turns of life whipped her into her purpose. She found her bearing once again, after all the struggles and disappointments. And when the turn-around came, it was resounding and conspicuous for all to see the good that can come out of her.
Had she accepted the illusion that she was a failure on account of the things that went wrong in her life, she wouldn’t have done herself, family and contemporaries any good. Now, she is a big inspiration to many young people, especially those who are at their wits end or feel that life has dealt them a blow.
Third, keep at it. Yes, I will put it as simply as that. Whatever it is you are doing, keep at it. Know that consistency will give birth to success. If you miss the gaze, you miss your opportunity. Keep your mind, heart and eyes on that goal of yours, while working the important things out to ensure that the dream is achieved. The road may be winding, with lots of stops but surely you will get there.
At some point, Sandra felt most of her mates who went ahead to graduate (and who probably were not as academically strong as she is) were far advanced in life than her. But I can bet my bottom dollar (or should I say cedi?) that Sandra has caught up or is even far better in many ways than a lot of them presently.
Within a relatively short time, the opportunities and exposure Sandra has had is nothing close to what many of her mates have had. Consistency made it possible. One thing that she has been consistent with is being disciplined. No wonder she got employment with a foreign mission after she had served there as an intern for a two-months. It is a discipline that has also made her a successful budding entrepreneur and, I dare say, very soon a celebrated stage performer.
Fourth, support is everything. When it became critical, Sandra had all the support she needed, otherwise we would not be reading this story. Yes, her family may have been disappointed about the turn of events but they also recognised that they needed to be there for her at that critical moment of her life. The empathy and support they had for her brought her back to her feet.
A few close friends were also in easy reach to offer some good advice and support. Let us support and encourage one another. It could just be a simple word of encouragement and life can be turned around for the better. Like it is said, encouragement is like oxygen to the soul. I will also say that support and encouragement help us to go through the adversities of life.
Another thing that many may not also know is that Sandra is a Sunday School Teacher as well. There is nothing like working in the Lord's vineyard. I believe that when you take care of that which is God’s, He also takes care of your needs. She gave to God and good Lord also poured sweet smelling blessings on her. God rewarded the faith and trust Sandra had in Him and ensured that her faith is kept whole by giving her a testimony. Will you also make yourself available for the Lord’s use? Let Sandra’s story inspire you into excellence and greatness!
Until next time, spread the inspiration.
Theodora Dame Adjin-Tettey teaches at the University of Professional Studies, Accra (UPSA).