She may call Binghamton home, but Nosa Akol’s desire to make a difference transcends national boundaries.
Her vehicle of transformation: agriculture, a field she developed a passion for through her involvement with 4-H and the Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) of Broome County.
“I can do so much more in the agricultural field. Providing food is so essential,” said Akol, a native of South Sudan whose family emigrated to Binghamton when she was five. “It’s something that can change somebody’s life for the better.”
A graduate of Binghamton High School, Nosa has been heavily involved in CITIZEN U, a civic engagement program through 4-H and CCE. She won the 2015 4-H Youth in Action Award and served as a delegate at the World Food Prize Global Youth Institute, as well as interned as a biological science aide at the Robert W. Holley Center for Agriculture and Health at Cornell University, attended the Norman Borlaug Symposium as a panelist, and served as keynote speaker at the 4-H Career Explorations at Cornell University.
A Liberal Arts – Science major, she plans to transfer to Cornell after finishing her year at SUNY Broome. Ultimately, she hopes to help women and children in the developing world create sustainable agriculture-based microbusinesses.
“Women in developing countries are the ones giving back,” she said, noting that microbusinesses would help bring income to their families. “I really like agriculture and I also like business. Why not combine the two?”
She’ll get a chance to put her passion to work in January, when she and 19 other students will board an airplane bound for Haiti as part of SUNY Broome’s 2016 global service learning course there. Nosa’s participation was made possible by a $1,500 scholarship, awarded by the Endwell Rotary and Rotary International.
Nosa’s interest in agriculture fits in with this year’s Health for Haiti trip, which will include a community garden component. The program has acquired land in the village it serves, and residents have already planted corn, melons and beans.
Professor Jennifer Musa, who created the Health for Haiti program with Maureen Hankin, reached out to Nosa for her expertise.
“I do not have a lot of gardening experience, so this is new to me! Once we started talking about doing it, I’ve never had a project move this quickly before,” Professor Musa said of the garden project. “I’m thrilled to have Nosa here, especially with her interest in agriculture. The timing was perfect.”
When she entered high school, agriculture never crossed Nosa’s mind. The eldest of six children, she had been considering a career in law enforcement – perhaps as an FBI agent – as a way to protect others. During her freshmen year of high school, she joined CITIZEN U, with the hope that it would nurture her career goals.
Instead, she found her interests changing and expanding in scope.
“CITIZEN U got me out of my comfort zone,” she explained.
Through the program, she improved her local community, planting trees and flowers in a local park and spearheading the Great Pothole Solution Project, which used GIS and GPS to map potholes throughout Binghamton; CITIZEN U teen leaders then presented their remediation plan to city officials.
She served as Broome County’s delegate to 4-H Capitol Days in Albany, where she met state legislators. She helped design and carry out two health and wellness projects at Binghamton’s Theodore Roosevelt Elementary School, where more than 57 percent of students are at risk of childhood obesity.
Research internships through Cornell, meeting with international leaders during World Food Day, serving on a Hunger Task Force through CCE and The United Way – Nosa Akol has a long list of accomplishments, and remains heavily involved in CITIZEN U.
“All of these experiences and honors have focused Nosa’s resolve to find solutions to ending global poverty and supporting the human rights on underserved women and children, especially in her native country of South Sudan,” CCE-Broome’s Dr. June Mead, State Project Director for Children, Youth and Families, wrote in a recent letter of recommendation.
Nosa chose SUNY Broome because it’s close to home, and offered a wide variety of interesting programs.
“I can take advantage of a lot of SUNY programs, too, that travel,” she said.
At Cornell, Nosa plans to major in international agricultural and rural development – and dedicate her life to making a difference.
“As a native of South Sudan, I am acutely aware of the lack of opportunities and injustices faced by young women living in poverty in a war-torn country,” she wrote in her Health for Haiti application. “But regardless of where my education and career goals lead me, I want to help others and fight global hunger.”