Reaching for the stars and beyond: Fredricka Amoah ’26

Reaching for the stars and beyond: Fredricka Amoah ’26

Byrd and Eva Waller Scholarship recipient

Fredricka Amoah ’26 studies at one of her favorite spots on campus, the Barbara J. Burger iZone in the Rush Rhees Library

Fredricka Amoah ’26 studies at one of her favorite spots on campus, the Barbara J. Burger iZone in the Rush Rhees Library

Fredricka Amoah ’26 has always dreamed big. When she was a little girl, she aspired to be a doctor and even the president of the United States—she wanted to do something that would help people and make their lives better. Her mother encouraged her aspirations, often reminding all five of her children to do their best, have far-reaching goals, and never forget where they came from.

Amoah’s roots extend from New York City to West Africa. She was born in the Bronx, where she spent most of her childhood and teenage years. Between the ages of five and nine, though, her family moved to Ghana, where her mother is from and where her aunts, uncles, and grandparents still live. Amoah loved it there and returned often for extended visits.

Over the years, Amoah has heeded her mother’s advice about education. She’s worked hard and consistently earned excellent grades. She was even valedictorian of her high school. When it came time for college, her principal, Liz Runco ’05, told her about Rochester and its rigorous academic program. She liked what she heard.

Amoah is now a first-year student here and the recipient of the Byrd and Eva Waller Scholarship. This is awarded to a deserving student who maintains an excellent academic standing and requires financial assistance. She is planning to major in optics, a field she learned about during a pre-college summer program offered through the University’s Early Connections Opportunity program.

“When I applied to Rochester, I was thinking pre-med or maybe engineering,” she says. “But then I saw an optics demo, which was given by a teaching assistant, and something sparked in me—I never even knew what optics was and now I want to know everything about it.”

During the fall semester, Amoah took classes in calculus, chemistry, writing, and optics–that was her favorite. In her optics lab, she learned how light can affect objects. For instance, in one assignment, Amoah and her classmates used a laser-cutting machine to etch the Meliora symbol onto a glass surface. Experiences like these are affirming Amoah’s career aspirations.

“Someday, I’d like to either build telescopes for NASA or work for Apple designing cameras for iPhones,” she adds. Outside of class, Amoah stays busy. She likes playing pickup games of volleyball with her friends, studying in her secret spot inside Rush Rhees Library, and working on assignments with classmates in the Barbara J. Burger iZone. Amoah is also part of the Optics Student Council and the Pan-African Students Association, which is focused on building and growing a diverse and accepting culture at Rochester. The Office of Minority Student Affairs has been helpful to her, too, providing her with resources as well as a community of like-minded people who support and can relate to her academic and life experiences.

Amoah credits her scholarship for making so much happen for her. “I’m incredibly grateful to Ms. Waller,” Amoah says. “It’s humbling and inspiring knowing that someone who didn’t even know me wanted to invest in my future. Someday, I hope to extend my hand to a student just like she has done for me.”

“I established this scholarship in honor of my parents. They sacrificed so much to make sure my siblings and I had a great education. I also wanted to pass along the generosity that was shown to me as the recipient of a scholarship, which was the only way I could attend the University of Rochester. I’m glad I can support a student like Fredricka—her passion for education is inspiring and I’m very proud of her.” —Kathy Waller ’80, ’83S (MBA) and University trustee

Kathy Waller ’80, ’83S (MBA) and University trustee

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Consider establishing or supporting a scholarship and help deserving students get a Rochester education. Contact Lisa Hall, Executive Director of Advancement, for more information.

Photo: Matt Wittmeyer

— Kristine Kappel Thompson, March 2023