As Beverly Danquah ’19CPS strode to the podium to deliver the student address during the 2019 St. John’s University Queens Undergraduate Commencement Exercises, there was only one thing on her mind: “I bet my family will be surprised,” she confided in a post-Commencement conversation.
The fact that she was poised to address an audience of more than 14,000 people did not phase her in the least. However, knowing she was about to give her family—who were unaware that she was selected to be the sole student speaker from the Class of 2019—yet another surprise, is what excited her most.
In her tight-knit Bronx family, Beverly is the person who likes surprises, both giving and receiving. To those who know her at St. John’s, her success came as no surprise as she was a positive force on campus from the moment she arrived in 2015 and joined the College of Professional Studies to study Communication Arts with a concentration in journalism and triple minor in Legal Studies, International Studies, and Business.
During her speech, she was inspired by all of the positive energy of her classmates and the crowd.
“It was such a happy day and the real culmination of a positive experience for me at St. John’s, and as I stated in my address, ‘If we all do so many great things while students at St. John’s, imagine what we can accomplish in a lifetime!”
Delivering the student address at Commencement was her final student experience at St. John’s before embarking on a 12-month fellowship from Princeton University that will bring her back to her ancestral homeland. The child of immigrants from Ghana, Beverly confesses that since she did not know many people who pursued higher education, she did not give much thought to her college search process until late in her high school career attending the Manhattan Center for Science and Mathematics in East Harlem, NY.
She wanted a college campus close to her family and access to all of the resources and internship opportunities that New York City has to offer. After visiting St. John’s, she decided to make the Queens, NY, campus her home. Over the next four years, she more than maximized her opportunities through residence life, the R.I.S.E. Network, internships, campus activities, and time studying abroad.
“I was a serial intern while at St. John’s,” Beverly describes with a laugh. “But all of my internships embodied the big industries, employers, and the very essence of New York City.” Her internships, which spanned the fields of fashion, transportation, government, and media, included Moda Operandi, Metro North, the New York City Council Press Office, CNN, MSNBC, and Saturday Night Live.
While on campus, Beverly climbed the ranks of The Torch, the independent student newspaper on campus, where she began as a reporter and finished as the Features Editor. It was while working on The Torch that she found the best that St. John’s has to offer. “I was exposed to so many of our hardworking and entrepreneurial students while writing for The Torch,” she explained. “We have so many amazing students who go to school while running a business, building their own brands, being bloggers and influencers, and making the most of their time living and studying in the greatest city in the world.”
Beverly did not limit herself or her learning to the metropolitan region, and during the spring of 2018, she spent a life-changing semester studying abroad as part of the Discover the World program. “Before coming to St. John’s, I did not even have a passport, and the furthest that I had ever traveled was to Richmond, VA, for a church convention.” During her semester abroad, she visited 14 countries and became enamored with Rome, Italy. “I would love to go back and do it again; I enjoyed my time living and learning overseas.”
Beverly almost did not pursue the idea of studying abroad because of the cost, but then she applied and successfully earned a highly competitive Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship from the US Department of State. The Gilman Scholarship Program enables students of limited financial means to study or intern abroad, thereby gaining skills critical to our national security and economic competitiveness.
It was through the personal connections made as a Gilman Scholar that Beverly discovered the Princeton in Africa fellowship opportunity that she would ultimately and successfully pursue with assistance and mentorship provided by Konrad T. Tuchscherer, Ph.D., Associate Professor, St. John’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. “Dr. Tuchscherer was so helpful to me in what was a long and rigorous application process,” Beverly stated.
In August, Beverly begins a 12-month fellowship where she will serve as a Communications and Knowledge Management Fellow for the International Water Management Institute in Accra, Ghana. Ghana was her first choice, and Beverly is very excited to learn and work where she has the advantage of speaking the language that she grew up using at home.
Beverly is not nervous about living in Ghana, but acknowledges that what she thinks will be different for her is the singular culture of Ghana compared to the melting pot of New York. “After a lifetime in New York City and four years at St. John’s—where there are so many different languages and cultures—I think it will be new for me to be in a place that is not as diverse.”