The African Student Association (ASA) prides itself on reaching out to students who are interested in African culture and are accepting of any students who are willing to embrace the culture. Its mission is to teach students about the African culture.
“Where diversity goes, we go,” Daniel Kontoh-Boateng, president of the African Student Association, said. “If you are all about diversity and you definitely have a keen interest (in African culture), we will definitely support you in all your endeavors.”
Most who join this club are looking for a place to connect with others who share their cultural interests.
“Being an international student from Nigeria, the cultural shock from moving to the U.S. was very overwhelming,” said Isioma Oye-Onwuka, a freshman club member, who is a marketing and bussiness management information systems major. “I needed a group of people who understood what I was going through and shared the same cultural understandings as I did. (This club) is one of the safest places for me to be me.”
While the club has many fun aspects, it can also improve a student’s resume.
“I believe that being a part of this club can enhance one’s major or degree because it offers diversity, networking and teamwork experience which I believe every degree benefits from,” said Emmanuella Iwelumo, secretary of the African Student Association.
Some students highlighted the possibilities that ASA opened to them.
“There are so many business opportunities associated with this club,” Kontoh-Boateng said. “Last year I got the opportunity to go to the Harvard Business conference and it’s the most intense business conference for African entrepreneurs. People who are there are interested in investing in Africa, so we have the CEO of MasterCard, the CEO of Swiss Bank, big telecommunication companies, and more.”
ASA has about seven events each semester, with one of its biggest being its fashion show, which is taking place this year on March 21. Last year ASA had local businesses in the South Orange Village support them.
“Our fashion show goes towards a philanthropy so it educates (attendees) on pressing issues around the world,” Kontoh-Boateng said. “One year we raised money for Ebola, another we raised money for clean water sanitation, and more.”
This club is not just a place where people are able to learn about African culture and attend interesting events. These members consider each other family.
“I really do believe it’s an incredibly safe space to talk about cultural difference and similarities,” Oye-Onwuka said. “For me, it’s just like being back home with my friends and for non-Africans, it’s a space to safely explore our culture with no judgments. And the vibe is always very upbeat.
“(This club) has given me the sense of family,” Kontoh-Boateng said. “We fight sometimes, but on the other hand it has made me even stronger. It has made me understand that sometimes when it’s business it’s just business, but when it’s family it’s family, and that’s what we are: a family.”
Kiah Conway can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.