Meet Mankaprr Conteh
“After visiting Wake Forest three times, I grew to know the campus so well I was giving directions,” says Mankaprr Conteh. “From the warmness and intellect of professors that had included me in their class discussions, to the dedication and sense of community I observed in the theatre program, Wake Forest felt like a place that I could develop a comfort zone, but have the support to step out of it.”
Tell us about your work in Sierra Leone building a library.
My parents always showed a sense of responsibility for the progress of their homeland, Sierra Leone, and I suppose it transferred to me. I visited Sierra Leone for the first time at eight years old, and the striking disparity between my life and the life of a Sierra Leonean child has resonated with me since. After sharing an internship with students who, at 17, were fighting sex slavery and homelessness in Africa, I felt even more empowered to do my part.
I developed my own project under the medical nonprofit my parents run to combat one of the most unjust disparities between the lives of a Sierra Leonean child and an American child; the disparity in educational resources. Project EqualAccess was formed to provide books, electricity, computers and educational software to Sierra Leonean schools. My first effort with Project EqualAccess, completed in April 2012, was to open a school library with the aforementioned resources in a primary school in my father’s hometown.
This is a big project. How did you succeed?
Networking and asking questions were key to the success of Project EqualAccess. I received a ton of support and publicity from people all over the country through my networking with those I had met during my internship and as an active member of my school district. I reached out to librarians and other nonprofits for guidance. Two of my goals for my Wake Forest experience are to land at least three more internships and graduate with a job lined up. Through Project EqualAccess, I’ve learned I shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help along the way.
What book has influenced your life and why?
When I was young, I often read a beautifully illustrated book called, “Africa is Not a Country.” Each page profiled the daily lives of children all over the continent. Though my family has always belonged to a close-knit community of other African immigrants and their children, I hated feeling different than my friends with fair skin, silky hair and common names. The kids in “Africa is Not a Country” looked like me, had names like mine and ate the foods we ate. Because of that book, at a young age, I started to accept this second culture I belonged to as a blessing rather than a burden.
What classes are you most excited to take?
CNN and MSNBC are always echoing through the halls of my house, and I believe in the positive powers of media. I’d love to be the next Melissa Harris-Perry, so I’m excited about taking classes that will fulfill a journalism minor.
What are you most looking forward to this year?
Though theatre is my first love, and I’m looking forward to growing as a performer at Wake Forest, I’ve always been interested in politics and am excited to meet other students who also are — especially with this being an election year.
What do you hope to have accomplished by the time you graduate?
I hope to leave with the tools needed to revolutionize the way a generation thinks and serves. I want my resume to include “speaks French fluently” and “raised thousands of dollars to modernize education in West Africa.” I know I’ll also have made great friends, overcome challenges and thrown lots of toilet paper.