Nana Agyemang Receives White House Correspondents’ Association Scholarship

The SMPA senior will attend the annual WHCA Dinner and meet the president and first lady.

Senior Nana Agyemang is the recipient of this year's George Washington University-White House Correspondents’ Association (WHCA) scholarship. (William Atkins/GW Today)
April 27, 2016

By Julyssa Lopez

Senior Nana Agyemang was on a train home from Berkley, Calif., when she got an email from School of Media and Public Affairs Director Frank Sesno last month: “Please come to my office.”

“Oh, God,” she thought. “What have I done now?”

A lot, it turns out. Ms. Agyemang is the editor-in-chief of the university’s multicultural publication, The ACE Magazine, which was recently nominated for an Excellence in Student Life Award. She is also a founding member of the GW Association of Black Journalists and mentors young high school students from the Richard Wright High School in Southeast Washington.

Last year, the budding photographer and journalist received an inaugural J. Michael Shanahan Journalism Internship Fund award to support a summer internship at CBS News, where she scored a photo credit just two weeks in. 

And, as Mr. Sesno told her when they met later, several SMPA professors had noticed her work. They had nominated her as this year’s winner of the George Washington University-White House Correspondents’ Association (WHCA) scholarship.

The award, which was first announced last year, grants one lucky SMPA senior an opportunity to attend the annual WHCA Dinner and meet the president of the United States and first lady. The winner also receives a $2,500 scholarship to be applied to his or her fourth year. Starting with the class of 2019, a freshman will be awarded a total of $10,000—$2,500 per year for four years.

“I called my mother immediately, and I called my dad, who is in Ghana. My mom was in tears,” Ms. Agyemang remembers.

Ms. Agyemang spent her childhood in Ghana and aspires to be a multimedia journalist shedding light on women and feminists in Africa. She hopes to strengthen her photography and writing skills in graduate school after finishing her degree at GW. Her top choices are the University of California at Berkeley, where she was interviewing when she got Mr. Sesno’s email, and Columbia University.

“What I love about Nana is her passion and dedication to the craft. She goes after what she wants and excels in everything she takes on: photography, reporting, writing. She's going to wow the journalism world,” SMPA Professor Cheryl W. Thompson said.

Ms. Agyemang says her family is thrilled about the award, particularly her mother. She laughs while sharing that her mom has been sending her texts and pictures every day, asking things like, “Do you like these shoes for the event?” “What about these earrings?”

But the texts and the enthusiasm represent something deeper for the family, Ms. Agyemang explains.

“I was talking to my brother, and he was like, ‘You have to understand where your mother comes from. [In Ghana], they dream of seeing Obama, they dream of coming to America, they dream of coming to the White House. You’re sitting with the first black president who comes from Africa—this is bigger than the family could have imagined,’ ” she said. 

With the White House Correspondent’s dinner just days away, Ms. Agyemang says the nerves haven’t totally hit her yet. She’s excited, but thinks the butterflies in her stomach won’t really start fluttering until the day of the event.

It helps that she already has planned out what she will say to President Barack Obama: Her final issue of ACE Magazine focuses on the rise of black activism on college campuses. The cover features an illustration of George Washington’s face, peeled back halfway to reveal Mr. Obama—and to symbolize a new generation of black voices.

“I’m going to ask him to sign it,” she said. “My mom wants to frame the pictures, and I want to frame the signed copy of the magazine.”