Sammy Aggro has come a long way from his home in Ghana to pursue higher education at Western Oregon University. He’s looking to make a difference in Oregon, and ultimately, the citizenry of his home country. While at WOU, he earned a bachelor’s in American Sign Language studies and is currently entering his last year in the master’s program for rehabilitation counseling.
He worked at a high school for Deaf students in Ghana and decided he wanted to learn sign language. “I had a passion for both teaching and sign language so I started looking at schools in Canada and the United States,” he said. “Tuition had me somewhat discouraged, but I had a friend who was teaching deaf education in Ghana. He had studied in the U.S. through scholarship and gave me five states I should look at to study.”
Discovering that WOU had a bachelor’s and master’s program he was interested in, Aggro applied for admission and scholarship and made his way across the globe seven years ago.
Aggro, (at far right in above photo) in collaboration with 2011 ASL English Interpreting Program students, have raised funds and made several donations of furniture they have contracted to be made for the Senior High School for the Deaf and the Junior High School for the Deaf in Ghana.
While reflecting on his time on campus, he most enjoyed knowing the language and communicating with Deaf people. “I learned the language from the teachers who are Deaf. That gave me the foundation that I really needed and I found that very cool.”
He even decided on his master’s program once he came to WOU for his bachelor’s. “When I came to Western, I saw the rehabilitation counseling program. What made me decide to do that is that I wanted to help people who need my services, and I have a passion for talking with people and wanting to help people with their situations.” He added, “I thought rehabilitation would be good because back in Ghana when I was in the high school for the deaf as a counseling figure, the principal set up counseling committees and I saw that there is always resolution through communicating. When I came to Western, since my freshman year, I had that goal.”
Not only has he dedicated himself to academics, Aggro spent a year between his degrees to gain practical experience in the field. He worked for Work Unlimited in a group home for adults with disabilities. He also worked for the Ron Wilson Center, skill building with clients with disabilities.
But none of this has been easy for an international student. His time has been challenging, but he’s found it to be exciting and positive. “My goal is to come here and learn something. I know in life you always face challenges but I feel positive completing my undergraduate degree and now going for my Master’s degree,” he said.
Once he completes his degree, he wants to give back to the people of Oregon for supporting him through his college career, then he plans to go back home and use his skills to help the people of Ghana.
Aggro has advice for students considering ASL or rehabilitation counseling. “First and foremost, consider your passion and interest. Be sure you know why you are going in and what you are going in for. My advice to any student is look at your passion and interest — it will be easy for you to succeed.”
He also has advice for international students. “I will always say it is very difficult to be an international student as there are cultural differences, but it’s always good to learn new things.” He believes students should focus on the positive cultural differences. He also encourages them to ask questions as he’s found faculty and students are always willing to talk to him and answer questions. “You can always talk through your problems with them here and I feel like that will help make a lot of progress.”
To support Aggro, and students like him, donations can be made via wou.edu/giving with the notation of International Student Scholarships.