Before he came to the United States, Amadou Bah’s exposure to education occurred in an environment where laundry was done by hand and corporal punishment was a possibility. Now, he’s the recipient of a $40,000 a year scholarship.
Born in Guinea, West Africa, Bah moved across the African continent to Mozambique to live with his aunt when he was 7. As part of his education, Bah’s aunt sent Bah to a boarding school in the small landlocked monarchy of Swaziland, where he spent three years learning English.
While there, Bah said he had access to only the very basic of learning materials. While the boarding school didn’t provide exposure to the type of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education Bah would later receive in the United States, he did have something not a lot of children in Swaziland or Mozambique had—a PlayStation Portable (PSP). While the video game device could have served as a distraction from his education, according to Bah, he and his friends weren’t interested in its intended use.
“We kind of dissected my PSP once and we weren’t able to put it back together,” Bah told The Champion. “That experience alone led to my interest in the hardware and software that supported those electronics.”
In 2013, Bah moved to the United States, where access to electronics and computers far more advanced than the PSP reinforced his interest in STEM. He entered Stephenson High School, where he began taking advanced placement (AP) courses.
“When I started taking classes in the AP program, I had no idea what the program was about,” Bah said. “They didn’t have AP classes back home.”
He took a variety of AP STEM courses through his two years of United States high school education, including AP physics at Fernbank Science Center. His AP education allowed him to enter Georgia Perimeter College a semester early. There, he said, his interest in STEM intensified.
“In college, you have access to all the tools and resources you need,” Bah said. “All of that just reinforces your interest in your field, knowing that you have all of these things to support you.”
According to Taylor Shapero, a professor of computer science and engineering, Bah flourished when he entered Georgia Perimeter.
“Amadou spends his days managing his 17-credit course load, tutoring across almost all STEM disciplines, providing supplemental instruction for calculous and engineering courses, developing and running experiments for the Clarkston Computing and Engineering Club and participating in the Math Club and various STEM student competitions,” Shapero said.
After three years of study at Georgia Perimeter, Bah received three awards at the school’s annual Honors Day April 18. He was awarded the 2018 academic honor in engineering, the 2018 Student Leadership Excellence award and was one of 47 students nationally to receive the Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship—the largest private scholarship in the country, providing $40,000 per year for up to three years.
“Amadou Bah is one of the strongest and most deserving students we will see come out of Perimeter College this decade,” Shapero wrote in her letter recommending Bah for the scholarship.
Nationwide, 2,500 students applied for the scholarship. Bah was the only 2018 recipient in Georgia.
He said he’ll use the scholarship to continue his education at either Georgia Tech, Carnegie Mellon or MIT.
“I feel great excitement to be a part of a group of such talented scholars,” Bah said upon receiving the honor. “Today has been a life-changing day.”
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