“That’s the one thing that brings me to Exeter every year. Helping others.”
Ghanaian native Michael Bamah ’18 expected little attention from PEA peers when he moved from New York to Exeter to begin his prep year. In his first bus ride to a track tournament, he says he kept to himself, with headphones in, and looked out the window. When asked questions by his companions, he would respond with one-word answers, feeling shy. But his teammates and others at Exeter weren’t so easily put off. Overtures of friendship and kindness came at him from every direction:
On the Team
As he stood on the blocks, waiting for his 50-meter race against rival Phillips Andover to begin, “All I could hear is, ‘Let’s go Michael,’ from the whole team.” The bus ride home looked quite different than the journey there: “I came back, with the headphones out, talking and laughing with everyone …. I realized people knew me and I shouldn’t be shy and fearful.”
Walking to class his first days at Exeter, strangers kept surprising Michael with greetings; they even knew his name.
In the Dorm
His older dorm mates made him feel welcome. “When I first moved into Cilley,” Michael recalls, “I only knew one person, but Taylor, Jack, Pedro, Will, Cedric, Billy, Harry and Ryan invited me to make and eat pancakes with them one night and that helped me fit in."
In the Classroom
When History Instructor Amy Schwartz assigned an end-of-term debate his first fall, Michael was worried. Quiet in class, he feared he had nothing worthwhile to share, and told his debate partner, Mitchell Kirsch ’17, as much while they were studying. “Come on, Michael,” he remembers Kirsch chiding, “I know you do.”
In the debate, Kirsch referenced a smart remark Michael had made in their planning, and that’s when Michael began to speak up in class, to share his ideas with others around the Harkness table. By the end of the year, he’d been recommended by Ms. Schwartz for Model UN. In his freshman effort, Michael won an award for Outstanding Delegate. The resolution he developed with peers about the use of drones was the only one that passed at the conference. While he began the day, as he had his classes, as a silent attendee, once he began to listen to others, “I realized I had stuff to say.” Michael is now considering an international affairs degree at Georgetown after Exeter.
The upper, who describes himself as “pretty outspoken now,” is effusive about the peers who have given him such confidence. He wants to “be that way for the Exeter kids beyond me.” That’s why Michael’s a class representative now. And when Michelle Soucy, chair of the Health Education Department, recommended him for the student-run health and wellness club, H4, he was excited to take part. As a member, Michael informs his peers about what the health center offers, helps develop ideas for improvement, and shares tips with his classmates on staying healthy and getting enough sleep. He particularly appreciates the conversational dinners with randomly invited students, where they discuss topics important to teen health, like sexual assault awareness.
“I struggled my prep year with who to talk to when I was stressed, and who to talk to if things went wrong,” says Michael,. “In H4, I can help other kids in any turmoil.
“That’s the one thing that brings me to Exeter every year,” he adds, thinking of all the people who made him feel so welcome. “Helping others.”