As a young girl in Africa, Elizabeth Acquaye would try to get out of going to school as much as she could. Now, as a young lady in America, she just can't get enough of school.
Acquaye, 19, has recently been accepted to Baylor College of Dentistry. Jack Long, director of admissions, said she is the youngest person starting in fall 2000.
She was born in Cape Coast, Ghana, and came to the United States when she was 8 years old. She came to be reunited with her father whom she had not seen in seven years. She could not speak or write English.
"I didn't know much of what was going on," she said. "The last people I saw were my grandfather and my mom. I came by myself."
Because she only spoke her native language, Fanti, her family made a card to hang around her neck with her information so would not be lost. Acquaye spent her first days in the United States in Los Angeles, and later moved to Plano.
"My first year was very rough. I would get into trouble all the time. After a while, I started to learn English," Acquaye said.
She remembers other children making fun of her because she did not understand them.
"By the ninth grade, I knew exactly what I needed to do," she said.
Acquaye graduated early from high school. She advanced from the 10th grade to the 12th grade.
Nearing the final days of high school, Acquaye was already enrolled at Collin County Community College. She graduated from Plano East in 1997, and finished her courses at CCCC in a year and a half. In fall 1998, she
enrolled at the University of Texas at Dallas.
She is now taking her last final exams before she graduates from UT Dallas with a Bachelor of Arts in Biology.
"I study constantly. I was going to school year round," she said.
She doesn't feel she is missing out on much as far a her social life is concerned.
"School is something I have to do to get what I want," she said.
What she wants is to work as a dentist, like her father. Her dad, George Acquaye, is a single parent and has his own dental practice in Plano.
"Over the years, we've been like this," she crosses her fingers and smiles. "It's always been me and him."
Her reason for wanting to be a dentist include making people smile again. She said there is an advantage dentists have by building a relationship with their patients that she finds appealing. "You get to see your work. I like that gratification," she said.
With her father in the room, she said as soon as she is finished at Baylor, she will go to work for her dad. They both speak of wanting to open an office in north Dallas in a lower income area so that they can give back to the community.
After her father leaves, Elizabeth does talk about other aspirations she has. "When I think of Ghana, I think of my hometown, the beginning of me. We want to go to build a dental office," she said. She wants to help the people there.
"I could donate time to do services," she said.
Elizabeth has traveled with her dad back to Ghana, where they have already donated equipment. The Daily Graphic, a Ghana newspaper, reported that Central Regional Hospital at Cape Coast received the equipment and supplies from the Plano dentist.