Since high school, Ishmael Akahoho has been involved as an intern for LEAF, Leaders in Environmental Action for the Future, part of the Nature Conservancy. For several summers he was assigned to conservation projects on Cape May in New Jersey and on Block Island in Rhode Island. But it was his earliest experiences at his grandfather’s farm while he was growing up in Ghana that left an indelible impression about the importance of being an advocate for the environment.
Question: Where are you from?
Answer: I was born and raised in Ghana. A little over 10 years ago, I moved to New York City with my family.
Q: What is LEAF and what were you involved in while you were with the organization?
A: When I heard about LEAF it sounded really interesting. I got involved in 2009 in my sophomore year at the Brooklyn Academy of Science and the Environment. It was a wonderful experience. When I was growing up, I used to do a lot of agricultural things with my grandfather. Once I started working with LEAF, I just remembered the times I was around him. It brought back good times for me.
Q: What brought you to RIT?
A: I was interested in the electrical mechanical engineering technology program. I talked to my guidance counselor about it because I didn’t know the schools that well. He told me to research RIT, and I found out it was a really good engineering school. When I heard about the co-op opportunity, that was definitely, like, why not?
Q: Why is the environmental field important to you?
A: In Ghana, most people are pushed toward medicine or engineering. But I wondered why the environmental field isn’t pushed as much if we are facing all these different environmental problems? But after hearing about the LEAF program and the different opportunities with that, I researched careers within the industry. A lot of people say ‘Ishmael, you’re a tree-hugger.’ So? I really don’t mind at all, I love it. Why wouldn’t you want to go into the environmental field where you can make a difference in the world?
Q: How has your work with LEAF helped with your classes?
A: I’m taking hydrology and geology classes. I was able to use my prior knowledge from LEAF to help me in those classes. We had an environmental health and safety seminar, and I raised my hand and I got to explain what I did.
Q: What are your plans after graduation?
A: When it comes to Ghana, people think of Africa as one big country. It’s not. It’s a huge continent filled with different countries and different cultures. Some people are amazed. I talk about the different things I saw around, and how I want to go back and help after I work in America for a bit. That is one of my long-term goals.
Q: What other things are you involved in at RIT?
A: I am secretary for RIThmic Audio productions, a musical group made up of student musicians. We love music, drums, dancing and perform at campus events. A lot of people love music, why not teach them how to come up with beats? But, really, I’m just trying to balance academics and activities.
Matt Gregory compiles “Student Spotlights” for University News. Contact him at email@example.com with suggestions.