AQ Alumnus Serves as Mayor in Ghana

By: Lauren F. Carlson '12

Published on

people standing with aprons on

"[The] AQ community spirit of love and caring is still fresh in my mind," said John Sackey '04, Aquinas alumnus and current mayor of Ga East Municipal District, Ghana. Previously an international student and community leadership major, and now mayor of a district of over 250,000 people, John credits his experience at the College—and the people who enriched it—for a lifetime of memories and professional success.

"It was the Community Leadership program that made me to come to AQ," said Sackey. Born in Okuleyman, the greater Accra region of Ghana, Sackey first learned of the College from Mary Edmond, Chairperson for the Ga District, Ghana/Grand Rapids Sister Cities Organization (GRSCI), and Mayor George Hartwell, then a professor in the program. He was soon convinced of the program's potential and after attending, quickly discovered that he made the right decision. "[The teaching and non teaching staff all make you feel at home," Sackey said. "[They are] great and wonderful people."

Though he was the only black student in his community leadership classes, Sackey mentioned, he never felt as if this cultural and racial difference made a difference to his fellow students. Always feeling at home, he remembers one particular instance when he missed the 10 p.m. bus after a late class in the dead of winter, and was offered a ride home by a classmate. This welcoming culture also influenced further involvement in campus programs, including a Campus Ministry service learning trip to Nazareth Farms. "I also had the privilege to do voluntary service with the Sisters of Agnes in Milwaukee," said Sackey.

Benjamin Amponsah, also born in Accra, Ghana and now Director of Human Resources at AQ, formed an coincidental connection with Sackey when the two met on Amponsah's trip home in 2009. Also part of the GR Sister Cities committee, Amponsah traveled to Accra to donate medical supplies to a recently renovated clinic and inspected a community restroom project located in Sackey’s district. "Further inquiries from the Alumni Relations office revealed that…he had actually been recruited by Brigid Avery!" said Amponsah, of their shared friendship with the Director of Alumni Engagement. Excited about their joint connection to both AQ and their home country, Amponsah and Sackey formed a friendship that continues to this day.

The year that Amponsah and Sackey's first met was also when Sackey became Mayor (Municipal Chief Executive) of Ga East Municipal District. Nominated by the late President of Ghana John Mills, and then re-nominated by current President John Mahama in 2012 after serving his first four-year term, Sackey continues to serve a district of 259,668 people. "He is responsible for the day-to-day performance of the executive and administrative functions of the District Assembly, and is the chief representative of the Central Government in the district," said Amponsah.

Reflecting on his experience at AQ, Sackey is thankful of the quality education and welcoming culture he felt, both in and outside of the classroom. In particular, the diverse opportunities of the Community Leadership program continue to inform his current work, even halfway around the world. "The mentoring, public speaking, voluntary service, and other skills that the program equipped me with is helping me a lot in my work as a mayor," said Sackey. "The Community Leadership has contributed a lot to my success," he said.