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Feature Article of Sunday, 16 September 2012

Columnist: Ofori, Oral

The pursuit of happiness turns a Ghanaian into an American

By Oral Ofori

Ghanaian born Virgil Afortor was one of the many Africans who filled out forms to participate in the US Diversity Visa Lottery (USDVL) program in 2008 with high hopes of winning. Winning the lottery and gaining permanent legal residency in the USA was not the most important to Virgil, but also making sense of his opportunities so it has a far reaching benefit not only for himself, but for the family that he has back home in Ghana.

Before taking a chance in the USDVL Virgil completed his high school education in Ghana at the coastal city of Tema 1997. He went to Chemu High School where he majored in the Sciences. From Chemu he pursued a degree pathway in Information Technology, with the IPMC College of Technology affiliated with the mother institution in the United Kingdom and graduated with an International Diploma in Computer Studies.

Armed with this sound educational background, Virgil felt ready to test the waters of the Ghanaian job markets, he was however disappointed when he realized there wasn't that many institutions were willing to hire young qualified professionals like himself. This was mainly because the state of the economy back then, and even now, did not leave enough room to absorb the increasing number of recent-graduates from tertiary institutions into the job markets.

So yes, Virgil became one of the many young Ghanaians with all the scholarly experience and no job markets available for them to exploit. Since he wasn't financially capable to join the exodus of young professionals that were leaving the shores of the country in search of jobs, he decided to take his chances with the USDVL. This decision proved to be a good one as his application picked through some good luck.

In the summer of 2009, Mr. Afortor arrived in the USA as a legal resident from Ghana to live the American dream with his adopted American family in East Islip in Long Island New York. It did not take too long for this immigrant to realize that life in America was all about work work work. He therefore reinvented his vision for the future by appreciating the fact that starting from the bottom, again, was necessary if one was to reach the top.

Equipped with quality education in basic science and Information Technology, Mr. Afortor branched away from his field of expertise like the many other immigrants he came to meet in the US and went ahead to take out his first job with the grocery department of Morton Williams Supermarkets in New York's 9th Avenue's 59th Street around Columbus Circle in Manhattan. He worked as the Produce Assistant Manager there for six months. When the right moment came, he decided it was time to move on not because he didn't like his job, but because the felt like there was much more opportunities that he needed so expose himself to, the USA Navy was atop that list.

As an immigrant with lots of expectations in the United States, joining the American Navy was a big decision that has really paid off for Virgil. Today, he proudly talks of the many benefits he enjoys as a naval officer, some of which are educational, health care, retirement benefits and of course, a guaranteed pay check! To become an American and member of the military of one of the greatest nations on earth he says, leaves him with the greater opportunity to be in service of his nation and defense of the American flag and the people who look up to it.

As a proud member of the US Navy, this Ghanaian turned American is also greatly impressed by the fact that the military provides him with specialized training to help develop a career-path that will enable one succeed in their future endeavor. When he looks back on his choice to join the navy now, Virgil says tells me with a smile, that given the opportunity he will do it all over again.

Not too long after arriving in the USA as a Ghanaian, Virgil took a trip back to his native Ghana, this time as an American. His family and friends were greatly impressed by the effort he had put into improving the quality of his life. Mr. Afortor believes this is the beauty of America; everyone has a fair opportunity to make the best of their lives, provided they make the right steps. Success will not be too far if you're working hard and staying focused on your dream…

Virgil graduated from the Recruit Training Command (RTC) barely in June 2010, then attended the Naval Hospital Corps School in the Great Lakes, Illinois where he graduated in October 2010. He afterwards received an Orders to work at the Naval Air Station (NAS) at Patuxent River in the State of Maryland. For Virgil, the hardest part of his boot camp was the swimming training; where he had to swim a 50 meter backstroke and do the prone float. Even though he knew how to carry himself in the water from growing up in a coastal city in Ghana, he never envisioned himself mastering the skill of swimming the backstroke until after boot camp.

The experience brought home the fact that you don't really need to be an expert swimmer to join the navy, you simply need to have a burning desire to become a naval officer and with that, the experts at the Recruit Training Command will surely get you to train and pass the swimming evolutions. To those of you who are thinking of a naval career but can't swim, here is your reference point to become what you really want to become if you really want to become it.

Among the many recruits to the navy, Virgil also looks to advance in the ranks, he is of the mind set that making ranks in the Navy depends on a lot of factors. In naval terms, these factors are called EVALs which depends on your time of rate, Advancement Exams and PQS. Mr. Afortor is now an E-3, which makes him eligible to take the 3 Class Petty Officer Exams. From there on the sky will not be the limit, his only limitation will be himself, thus if he thinks and speaks of impossibility, then the latter becomes a reality.

Virgil has 10 siblings; 3 of which are half siblings, his father is a retired banker who worked with the Barclays Bank of Ghana, his mother a trader. According to Virgil, military life is what you make of it and for now, he wants to pursue future studies in the medical field in addition to his IT professional background. The sky, once again, is not the limit for this young man. There's simply no limit! Who knows, in the future he could become an Admiral of the United States Navy; all it takes is great amount of hard work, quality education, honor, courage and commitment to one's core values, all of which abound in the US Navy.

Oral Ofori, +1202-706-9881, oralofori@gmail.com, Freelance Writer ( www.oralofori.blogspot.com), Wikimedia Ghana Enthusiast, Broadcaster, Retail Specialist, Music Promoter, Artiste. http://about.me/oralofori/

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