With a big smile and optimism, UVU alumni and Olympic athlete Akwasi Frimpong addressed a crowd eager to hear his message of resilience. The event, hosted by the African Diaspora Initiative at UVU, capped off a series of Black History Month events on February, 24th. The event was well attended with a variety of student athletes, community members, staff and President Tuminez.
Frimpong, an Olympian, entrepreneur, philanthropist and public speaker, graduated from UVU in 2013 with a degree in marketing and business management. During his talk, he shared his personal story which saw him go from his native Ghana, to the Netherlands, to UVU and finally to the Olympics.
The keynote speaker spoke of his struggle to adapt to life in the Netherlands as an undocumented immigrant facing discrimination. At that time, he found track-and-field as a fortunate coping mechanism, noting that, “You have to prepare for losses so they don’t break when they come.” Despite performing at a high level in his sport, Frimpong was limited by his status in pursuing further opportunities and attending events.
Following his high school graduation, he came to UVU where he attended on an athletic track-and-field scholarship which he chose in part because of its African student population. An untimely injury once again tested his ability to succeed in the face of adversity and as one door closed, another opened in a sport with little representation from African athletes. Thus, the sport of Skeleton involves a small sled sliding down a frozen track at speeds over 70 miles per hour.
Proud of being the first in his family to graduate from a university and the first West African to compete in this winter sport at the Olympics, Frimpong shares his success with his family and his compatriots. At this time, he is enjoying time with his family while training for his next challenge–the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.
During the later half of the event, DaSheek Akwenye Director of Campus Recreation and Wellness joined Kevin Woods Mental Health Specialist for the athletics department, to talk about their experiences with student-athletes. According to Dasheek, “[S]tudents that are engaged in activities are 60% more likely to graduate.” As student-athletes themselves, they discussed the physical, social and psychological demands of balancing performance in both sport and academics. More than anything, they see student involvement as an integral part of a positive campus experience.