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Nissi Otoo

1165

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Nominee

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Finalist

Bio

Hi there! My name is Nissi Otoo and I am a current high school senior with a passion for computer science and music. As a first-generation immigrant, I have always struggled to find my place in the world and have been driven by a desire to make a positive impact in my community. I have pursued this passion through a variety of activities, including co-founding a chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers at my high school and being my high school marching band's drum major. In addition to my passion for learning, I am also a highly determined and resilient individual, with a proven track record of success in both academic and extracurricular endeavors. My ultimate life goal is to use my skills and knowledge to create positive change in the world and make a lasting impact. I am most passionate about using technology to solve problems and improve people's lives, and I believe that my background and experiences have uniquely qualified me to be a leader in this field. I am particularly interested in using my education to help those who are in need, whether through volunteering, community service, or other forms of social action. I believe that my passion for making a difference, combined with my strong work ethic and dedication to learning, make me a good candidate for any opportunity. I am excited to continue my education and career in a field where I can use my skills and knowledge to make a positive impact on the world.

Education

Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

Bachelor's degree program
2023 - 2027
  • Majors:
    • Computer Science

Osbourn Park High

High School
2019 - 2023

Miscellaneous

  • Desired degree level:

    Bachelor's degree program

  • Graduate schools of interest:

  • Transfer schools of interest:

  • Majors of interest:

    • Computer Science
    • Data Science
    • Information Science/Studies
    • Computer Engineering
  • Not planning to go to medical school
  • Career

    • Dream career field:

      Engineering

    • Dream career goals:

      Engineer

    • Cashier

      Wegmans
      2021 – 20221 year
    • Tutor

      Kumon
      2020 – 2020

    Research

    • Social Sciences, General

      Osbourn Park High School — Researcher and writer
      2022 – Present

    Arts

    • Osbourn Park Marching Yellow Jackets

      Music
      2019 – Present

    Future Interests

    Volunteering

    Philanthropy

    Entrepreneurship

    Disney Super Fan Scholarship
    Sankofa: “return and get it.” It's more than just a word; it serves as a reminder of my identity, a connection to my ancestry, and a tie between generations. As a Ghanaian-American, the silly language quizzes my father sporadically gave me as a child have developed into something meaningful. Sankofa, with its Twi resonance, invites me to explore my roots, to accept the lessons of the past, and to create something unique going forward. Imagine me at the age of ten, with big eyes, returning to Ghana after years apart. Although I was raised in Northern Virginia, I was born in Tema, Accra, and moved at six years old. Revisiting was like entering a story where the bouncing marketplaces, vibrant dances, and even the air itself whispered the tales my parents had told. My identity suddenly and smoothly seamed together, and the idea of belonging stopped being simply a concept and started to become a concrete reality. Once only a word, Sankofa has since come to symbolize my sense of place. Enter Princess Tiana, an image of grace and tenacity who represents this journey I'm on. She is my favorite thing about Disney. Her dream to open a restaurant and my desire to learn the complex language of my culture and heritage are paralleled. Just as Tiana navigated the challenges to make her dream come true, I bridge paths to connect myself to the identity I lost. She carries the spirit of Sankofa, which inspires her to move forward while honoring her dad. What is this Sankofa, truly, and why does it resonate so strongly? It has been handed down through the decades like an heirloom. It serves as a gentle reminder that while progress moves us forward, our roots keep us anchored in place. Sankofa beats like a second heart with each step I take, prompting me to value the past while embracing the future. My Sankofa journey isn't just about me; it's about empowering others to discover their role in the world. I picture a world where every Ghanaian girl like me stands tall, empowered by her culture and sense of identity. It's like giving them a compass to help them navigate the uncertainty of life. Sankofa, my guiding star, will be their North – the Evangeline to their Ray. I've always loved how Disney captures the spirit of dreaming. It's the way it serves as a mirror for our dreams, acts as a blank canvas for our hopes, and carries our history. It is a conviction that our stories matter, our voices are heard, and our dreams have a chance to impact our futures regardless of where we are from. Disney is a celebration of diversity and a monument to the wonder of several languages and cultures fusing together to produce something wonderful. It serves as a reminder that our experiences matter, our roots are a source of encouragement, and our aspirations are worthwhile. Disney and Sankofa are intertwined into my fabric of life. My enthusiasm, motivation, and ambition have all been sparked by them. Sankofa leads me back to my home, and Disney invites me to explore the boundless depths of my imagination. Together, they have shaped my journey of self-discovery, empowerment, and cultural revival.
    Aspiring Musician Scholarship
    “It’s snowing! Let’s go out and play!” I called out to my brother. We both woke up to the sight of a fluffy featherbed that filled our yard. Born in the tropics of Ghana, I had only seen snow in movies and TV shows. I loved dancing in the rain but a part of me always longed for the tranquility that came with snow. Beautifully chiseled ice crystals fall to the ground leaving nothing more than a whisper behind them. I stayed up fantasizing about my snow angels and snowmen; then in 2012, I experienced it for the first time. I will never forget the delicate crunch of snow under my feet, it was unlike anything I had ever heard before. The sound of each individual crystal crunching and creaking was mesmerizing. For as long as I can remember, rhythms enhanced my life to a degree that’s only describable as joy in its purest form. In the snow, however, the tunes sounded immensely more beautiful and I began my mission to recreate those same blissful feelings that 6-year-old me experienced. I demanded my parents take me to the nearby music store where I mindlessly chucked sticks on the drumset, pounded keys on the piano, and plucked all the strings on the guitar. To anyone, it may have appeared as if I was making a fool of myself, but to me, it was art. The combination of patterns, pitches, and tempos I can experiment with feel like they’re never-ending and that is the beauty of it. Being part of the band program at my high school was an indescribable experience that cannot be overstated. I joined the Freshman Band, the Wind Ensemble, and the Marching Band, where became the clarinet section leader and then the drum major. It wasn't just about playing music - it was about coming together with a group of people who shared my passion and worked together to create something truly beautiful. It was a place of joy, of community, of growth. I have auditioned for every enrichment ensemble outside of the school that I have been aware of, leading me to become the 2nd chair all-county clarinet and 3rd chair all-district clarinet my senior year. These were the moments that defined me - where I made my closest friends, learned leadership skills, and developed a work ethic that will guide me for the rest of my life. There, I became a more confident, passionate, and vulnerable person. Looking forward, I know that my participation in band will always be a part of me. With this in mind, I plan to major in computer science in college, but I also hope to minor in music education so I can share my love of music with others as a tutor and teacher. Even if I don't go into music as a career, I know that I will always find ways to stay involved, auditioning for ensembles and playing for my own enjoyment. As I grow closer to my artistic side, I gradually learn the meaning behind every sound that comes out of my clarinet. Rather than showing off an array of notes, I aim to convey a story, one that encapsulates the elation I felt when I heard the first crunch. It all comes full circle as I recall standing tall and proud on the marching field as I salute the crowd. In that moment, I knew that I had experienced something truly magical - something that will stay with me for the rest of my life.
    She Rose in STEAM Scholarship
    I picked up my shattered Apple Watch. “Dad will be devastated,” I thought to myself as I checked the water barrel for remaining glass shards. It was my first evening back in Ghana after a five-year hiatus. Having not adjusted to my new nightly routine, I accidentally slipped, dropped, and broke my 13th birthday present. I cleaned the mess, then grabbed my paddle, bucket, and sponge, and headed to shower. At the time, I was used to easy access to water at home, and the idea of using a bucket and paddle to clean myself seemed strange and inconvenient to me. However, as I saw the color-coordinated paddles and sponges behind the bathroom door, it became clear to me that this was simply a way of life for many people in Ghana. Being a first-generation immigrant who has had the privilege to stay in many countries including Germany, Canada, and Ghana, I am well aware of the divide facing the population. This creates engagement problems and further pushes the huge lack of skill and access to skill-learning in the developing countries I have both visited and lived in. My ultimate goal is to make a lasting, significant impact that aids countries like Ghana and all third-world populations, and I aim to use a computer science degree to achieve it. For me, the opportunity to attend college is about more than just earning a degree. It's about becoming a part of a community filled with individuals determined to take action toward their goals. It's about exploring new ideas, making connections, and pushing the boundaries of what is possible. Most importantly, it's about using my knowledge and skills to positively impact the world, starting with my small world in Ghana. At school, I joined the leadership team in our coding club working on an application to improve the organization and engagement of our school library's book collection. When I told my family in Ghana about it, they were thrilled to see me using my resources to do something meaningful for my school, but they were yet to hear about my initiative for them at home. Despite significant improvements in access to water in Ghana, many people are still deprived of access to this valuable resource. According to UNICEF, one in every ten people spends at least 30 minutes accessing a clean drinking water source, and 11% of the population drinks from unsafe water sources. With the increasing amount of data being generated and collected, it is important to have systems in place to manage and analyze them. Courses such as Health and Computation and Information Science, provide the skills and knowledge necessary to design, implement, and analyze data management systems to extract actionable knowledge to assess health and provide care. In Ghana, where the technology is not as advanced, implementing systems to monitor and track water quality would improve many lives. I aspire to learn more about project management and data analytics in college to ease these statistics. The encouragement of collaboration between various schools in college facilitates the ability for diverging topics to coexist. Through a well-funded college education, I will be able to gain practical experience working with professors, students, and engineers from all fields. As an aspiring computer and information sciences student, I am committed to using my opportunities and voice to speak for those who do not have the same. With my laptop and determination in tow, I strive to use my degree to make a difference in the lives of people like my family in Ghana and beyond.
    Maggie's Way- International Woman’s Scholarship
    As I read about Malgorzata "Maggie" Kwiecien's life, I couldn't help but feel a deep sense of admiration and inspiration. Though I never had the privilege of meeting her, I feel a strong connection to her determination, bravery, and intellectual curiosity. Like Maggie, I too have always been drawn to physical challenges and have a love for learning and exploring new ideas. From a young age, the power of technology to shape and improve the world around us has fascinated me. As a first-generation immigrant, I have seen firsthand the ways in which access to education and opportunity can make a profound difference in people's lives. I am determined to use my skills and knowledge to make a positive impact, particularly for those who may not have the same opportunities as I have had. Just like Maggie, I have faced my share of challenges and obstacles. I remember the first moment I truly connected with my cultural identity: during a five-week trip to Ghana when I was ten. My parents had immigrated to the United States when I was six, and I had quickly abandoned my native tongue in an effort to fit in. But during that trip home, I immersed myself in the language and customs of my home country and felt a sense of belonging that I had never experienced before. I was fascinated by the words and phrases that had been a part of my childhood, but that I had forgotten in my pursuit of a new life. Words like "m'adamfo" (friend), "akoma" (heart), and "fɛ" (beautiful) suddenly had new meaning to me. I realized that in abandoning my native language and culture, I had lost a part of myself. I have always been driven by a sense of determination and a belief that anything is possible with hard work and perseverance, and I was not going to let one setback hold me down. As I continue on my journey in computer science, I am inspired by Maggie's example and her commitment to using her knowledge and skills to make a difference in the world. I am confident that, with hard work and dedication, I can follow in her footsteps and use my passion for technology to create positive change in the lives of others. One social justice issue that I am particularly passionate about is the underrepresentation of women in STEM fields. Despite making up half of the population, women are underrepresented in many STEM fields, including computer science, engineering, and physics. This is not only unfair, but it also limits the potential of these fields and hinders the progress of society as a whole. Being the co-founder of a chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers at my school, I am passionate about promoting diversity and inclusion in STEM fields. I have seen firsthand the challenges that marginalized communities face in pursuing careers in science, technology, engineering, and math, and I believe that it is important to provide resources and support for these communities and to ensure that everyone has an equal opportunity to succeed in STEM fields. I actively take steps to uplift black voices using my knowledge so they have access to what I wish I had. Maggie's story is a reminder that no matter the challenges we face, we can always strive to be our best selves and make a positive impact on those around us. It is my hope that, through my work in computer science, I can honor her legacy and make a difference in the world just as she did.