6 Questions with LEAF alum Ishmael Akahoho

In honor of Black History month, we'd like to introduce you to an up-and-coming African American leader in conservation.

African Americans have a rich history in conservation in North America. Take our quiz to test your knowledge, and then find out how The Nature Conservancy's internship program, Leaders in Environmental Action for the Future (LEAF), is empowering future African American leaders like Ishmael Akahoho.

Originally from Ghana, Ishmael moved to the United States at the age of 10 and attended high school at the Brooklyn Academy of Science and Environment. He participated in LEAF in 2009, stationed in Rhode Island and in 2012 stationed in New Jersey. Today he is pursuing a bachelor's degree in Environmental Sustainability Health and Safety at the Rochester Institute of Technology in New York. In the summer of 2013, he is slated to return to the Conservancy to work once again in Rhode Island empowering a new crop of emerging LEAF leaders.

"My generation must make it our top priority to do what we can to save the planet for our future and that of future generations."


Were you always interested in nature? OR was your family involved in nature?

Ishmael Akahoho:

Growing up in Ghana I lived mostly in the city with my dad, however on school holidays and during vacations he would send me to my grandfather's village. My grandfather had a farm which I would help him work on. It was a way for us to bond because he taught me the different uses for the crops he grew and why he would grow particular crops. It was something I always looked forward to whenever I had a break from school. This sparked an interest in nature and the environment because I was curious as to how things in nature worked.

After my grandfather's death and my move to the United States, my developing love for nature was slowly depreciating because I was so detached from it. While doing my first LEAF internship in 2009, we removed invasive species on a large farm in Block Island. I remembered my grandfather and I working on the farm and as the month progressed, I started redeveloping my love and curiosity for nature.

Ever since the LEAF internship, I've looked forward to working in nature every summer and through my college studies, I have chosen to make it my career path.


How did the LEAF experience impact you?

Ishmael Akahoho:

The LEAF experience made me realize my passion for sustainability and how much I wanted to do my part in this world for a better, greener world. The experience also made me realize the lack of environmental education in my country as well as most places, particularly third world countries. I decided that after completing my education I want to go back to Ghana and help educate youth in sustainability just like LEAF educated me.


What made you decide to pursue continuing studies in the environmental field?

Ishmael Akahoho:

Though I always loved the environment, before my experience with LEAF I had always wanted to pursue a mechanical and electrical engineering career. However, after my first quarter in college doing what I thought I would love, I thought back to my experience with LEAF and how much I really enjoyed doing work in sustainability. After a discussion with my advisor I decided to do switch my major to Environmental Sustainability.


You received a Gates scholarship; how has that impacted your life?

Ishmael Akahoho:

Receiving the Gates scholarship impacted my life a whole lot. Living with a single parent who had to work two jobs, sometimes even three jobs to make ends meet, my dad and I were trying to figure out how to pay for my college. The day I received the letter in the mail saying I was chosen to be one of the 1,000 recipients of the scholarship my heart was filled with joy and I felt a sense of relief knowing that the burden of college tuition was lifted off my dad so he could at least worry about other things.


What are your future career plans?

Ishmael Akahoho:

As of now my future career plans are to continue my educational path and hopefully receive my doctorate in Sustainability and/or Environmental Engineering. Upon receiving my degree I want to help build green technology and help develop different and more efficient ways to help people live more sustainably. I also want to go back to Ghana and help educate people in environmental studies starting with the youth.


Why do you think the environment is important to you and/or your generation?

Ishmael Akahoho:

The environment is important to my generation and I believe it’s because without the environment we have nothing. Our existence is due to the natural resources provided to us by nature; if it falls we fall with it. And with the environment at its current state and people who are ignorant of climate change and other environmental issues, my generation must make it our top priority to do what we can to save the planet for our future and that of future generations.


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