Personality in Focus
Senior Master Sgt.
From Little Girl in Ghana to Legislative Fellow in the U.S. Government; Reserve Citizen Airman embodies the American Dream.
Her tepid attempt to subdue a smile betrayed a subtle amour-propre, grounded in mollifying unpretentiousness, as she sketched a picture of her childhood home in a sub-region of West Africa on a yellow Post-It note. Called a “compound house,” she shared the square-shaped structure with her great grand-parents, cousins, and several other members of her extended family. Rooms lined the walls facing inward toward an open living area where the resident children would spend their days playing.
Early Life & Education
Senior Master Sgt. Eva Appiah (ah-pee-ah), 357th Airlift Squadron first sergeant, was raised by a working-class single mother in the small village of Agona Swedru in the Republic of Ghana, a country along the Gulf of Guinea in the Eastern Atlantic Ocean. Her mother and grandmother consistently stressed the importance of education, she reminisces, because they wanted her to have a better life than they had. Every school day, her grandmother would pay for cab service to drive her and her cousin to attend.
Appiah’s mother sent her to study at Swedru International School (SWIS), a boarding school 45 minutes from their home, as it was more economical than funding a daily commute. As a result, she learned to become self-reliant at an early age. Appiah chuckled as she remarked, in a tongue-in-cheek manner, that her life at the boarding school prepared for life in the military.
“As typical of children in Africa, I became independent quickly,” she said as she twisted gently from side to side in her swivel chair, her head titled slightly upward and her eyes scanning the recesses of her memory for dusty images of a time long ago. “In boarding school, our parents weren’t there to get us up for school or get us ready. We were structured to wake up, clean the campus, get ready for school, walk one-quarter mile to the school, and go in and study. Sometimes we had extra duties such as making sure all the tables and chairs were aligned properly.”
Though she had a few friends at SWIS, there wasn’t much time for socialization. Some people chose to participate in sports and other extra-curricular activities. Appiah, a self-proclaimed “nerdy-type,” tried out for track and field, but didn’t much care for it, instead opting to join the choir. She cites her exposure to classmates from different cultures and dialects as preparing her for her eventual move to the United States.
Appiah longed to move out of Africa. With relatives in London, Amsterdam, and other European cities, she assumed she would end up there. However, in 1996 her mother announced she was getting married and the two of them were moving to America to join her step-father. In early October, at the age of 14, she and her mother arrived and settled in at Smiths Station, Alabama. One week later, on October 17, she enrolled at Smiths Station High School.
Her new classmates did not receive her openly. Even though she could read, write, and understand English (at SWIS, one could be expelled for failing to attain proficiency in the subject), she spoke with an accent. It didn’t help that she was more intellectually advanced than her peers. As a freshman, she was taking classes with students in higher grade levels. Fellow students would say “not so nice” things to her and about her. She would go home and cry to her mother every night about how she didn’t fit in.
We discuss pressing, educational and developmental issues confronting our community, the state and the diaspora. This is done on weekly with resource persons who volunteer in the area of discussion.