W&M freshman honored for building library in Ghana

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Samantha Boateng poses for a photo with schoolchildren who will have access to the library. (Courtesy photo/W&M)
Samantha Boateng poses for a photo with schoolchildren who will have access to the library. (Courtesy photo/W&M)

William & Mary freshman Samantha Boateng has been named as one of the “22 Under 22 Most Inspiring College Women” by online publication Her Campus. Boateng was chosen out of 1,000 applicants for her work with Read 2 Lead this past summer in Ghana.

Read 2 Lead is an organization Boateng created to promote a love of reading by providing access to books and resources to children in her parents’ home country of Ghana.

Boateng was in Ghana working with Read 2 Lead at the time Her Campus named her to its “22 Under 22” list. She said Read 2 Lead had been struggling to get support from the community and the announcement helped lift her spirits.

“One evening, I just decided to check my email, and I saw that and it got me really excited again, especially about the library,” Boateng said. “Because it was kind of hard, when we were there for some time, getting a lot of support.”

Boateng was inspired to start Read 2 Lead after her mother returned to northern Virginia from a trip to Ghana where she taught a public speaking class to children who had little to no access to books or a library. When Boateng heard how heartbroken her mother was by this, she decided she wanted to do something to help.

“I love reading so much, so I wanted to at least collect a few books to send over,” she said.

What started out as collecting a few books turned into building a library in Accra, Ghana, from the ground up.

Boateng began collecting books for the children in Ghana her junior year at Gar-Field Senior High School in Woodbridge, Virginia. By the time she graduated, Boateng had collected more than 14,000 books and 22 computers and raised around $15,000 with the help of her classmates and her community.

This past summer, Boateng, along with her family and a few students and teachers from her community, took the books they collected to Ghana and began building the library. A local government school donated the land, which sits on the school’s property, but it is open to the more than 20,000 students and members of the community.

Although the library has been opened, there is still work that needs to be done, such as finishing the electricity. Boateng and her family will return to Ghana at the end of the year to work on those finishing touches.

In the spring, Baoteng has plans to take students from her high school with her to open another library in her parents’ hometown of Kumasi. She also hopes to get involved with William & Mary’s Office of Community Engagement and have students from William & Mary travel with her to Ghana for Read 2 Lead.

“It really opened my eyes up,” she said. “After being there, I know that in the future I want to do more things like that and help people somehow, any way I can.”