Graduate overcomes anxieties to complete master’s
By Ashlee Larrison
GCU News Bureau
“Education is not a race.”
That’s what Daniel K. Owusu-Bempah’s father had tried to instill in his son. But a young Owusu-Bempah couldn’t help but feel discouraged when his state test scores required him to repeat sixth grade.
“That moment in my life was very depressing, and I was somewhat lost,” he recalled.
Fast forward to 2020, and that same lost sixth grader finds himself with a master’s degree in Public Administration with an Emphasis in Government Policy from Grand Canyon University.
Owusu-Bempah, who now works as a Detention Officer for juveniles in Sangamon County, Illinois, was introduced to his future alma mater through his girlfriend, who is enrolled in an online bachelor’s program.
Although he had turned around his academic results in middle school and high school, seemingly overcoming the test anxiety that had plagued his teenage years and graduating with honors, he struggled to find his footing when he pursued his undergraduate degree.
He changed his major three times, from Computer Science to Criminal Justice and finally Liberal Studies.
“It was a wakeup call for me,” he said. “My undergraduate was really challenging. … When I graduated from the Liberal Studies program, I sat down and looked at my transcript and I didn’t feel satisfied.”
He had always known that he wanted to pursue his master’s degree but was never sure when the right time would be, especially since he had the constant fear of failure sheltered in the back of his mind. GCU presented him the opportunity.
“GCU gave me a chance,” Owusu-Bempah said. “I decided to take on that challenge and not worry about the fear.”
The program worked well with his schedule, both with his job and his side photography business, and allowed him to keep up with his role as a father to his son, Caleb, who was born while Owusu-Bempah was pursuing his undergraduate degree.
“My son was the reason I kept going,” he said about his academic journey. “The whole mental aspect, at GCU, became more calm than it was during my undergraduate experience because at GCU I was focused on the end goal — I knew why I was doing it.
“It was challenging. There were some nights where my mind was blank, I couldn’t think of anything when it came to assignments, but I pulled through. I just kept my eye on the prize, as my father would say.”
Owusu-Bempah, whose ultimate prize is to work for the FBI, finished his program in January and would have been eligible to participate in this week’s Online Commencement ceremony. He told his parents about his accomplishment by printing out a copy of his transcript and giving it to them as a Christmas present.
His father offered to fund the trip to Phoenix, and Owusu-Bempah hopes to attend the Fall Commencement ceremony.
What does having his master’s mean to him?
“It means to me that anything is possible,” he said. “Obtaining this degree from GCU allowed me to inspire the youth that I work with. … I try and instill in the kids that education can open many doors for you.
“I try to inspire them by letting them know if you invest yourself in education, your future will be fruitful.”
His advice to other parents who are interested in furthering their education: “Don’t let your circumstances define your future.”
Contact Ashlee Larrison at (602) 639-8488 or [email protected]