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Already making a mark in her community, this teen is ready for liftoff

Self-motivated Lakewood Ranch high school senior Amy Kwakye-Amoah wraps up the high school phase of her life with a big award. She has no plans to coast into college.

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  • | 5:00 a.m. May 16, 2024
Amy Kwakye-Amoah has worked with fellow teens on addressing body image, cyberbullying and other common issues.
Amy Kwakye-Amoah has worked with fellow teens on addressing body image, cyberbullying and other common issues.
Photo by Lori Sax
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Amy Kwakye-Amoah’s volunteer work started at an early age. When she was 6, her parents brought her along on a trip to their native Ghana in West Africa. After arriving, they stopped at stores and purchased large quantities of rice and bread and other perishables.

“Amy asked, ‘Why are we getting all these things?’” recalled her father, Dr. Daniel Amoah, a family-medicine M.D. with a practice in Bradenton. “I said, ‘You will see, you will see.’”

From there, the family drove to the Kumasi Children’s Home, an orphanage near the airport, where Amy carried what she could and helped distribute the bounty to needy children.

The experience inspired the youngster to make community service a central part of her life. Now 18 and a senior at Out-of-Door Academy, she was named Youth Humanitarian of the Year by the Lakewood Ranch Community Foundation in December.

Throughout her young life she has engaged in an array of volunteer activities. Amy is one of the leaders of Active Impact, her high school’s community-service club, which takes on projects such as making dog and cat collars for the Humane Society. But it was her work with Healthy Teens, a Bradenton-based nonprofit, that garnered her the honor. 

Along with other Healthy Teens volunteers, Amy completed a six-week training course involving critical issues such as substance abuse, nutrition, mental health, relationships and more. From there she went out into the community to engage in what she calls peer-to-peer education. Amy and her cohorts give presentations at a variety of youth organizations, to groups as large as 20, opening up lines of dialogue about difficult topics. 

“Sometimes it’s a little awkward at the start because we don’t know each other. So we have to work to connect and engage with them,” Amy explains. “Then we slowly start to see everyone offering their input and listening intently — because everyone can relate to these things, especially teens.”

It’s no surprise that much of the discourse in these meetings involves social media. Amy has led discussions about body image, cyberbullying and how young people tend to get too influenced by the content on various platforms. As for her personal approach to social media, she avoids the spaces where negativity reigns, saying “I really try to limit the time I spend there.”

Her parents don’t have to manage her exposure to social media. She handles that herself. Besides, this young woman is too busy getting A’s (and the rare B) in school and, of course, volunteering. “Amy has always been a very compassionate person, since she was a kid,” says her father, who volunteers for We Care Manatee, which helps provide medical care for the uninsured. “She’s also very self-motivated. We don’t have to tell her to do her homework or things like that. Everything that she decides to do, she does it wholeheartedly.” 

Amy agrees. “I don’t think my parents have had to push me in any way, shape or form,” says the oldest child of three (she has two brothers).

Although she was accepted to the University of Florida, Amy recently decided on a college a little farther away: Princeton. She’s leaning toward studying global health, “whether it’s in the nonprofit sector or the business side,” she says.

Last summer, Amy interned at the Florida Department of Health in Sarasota. “I definitely enjoy the behind-the-scenes aspect of medicine,” she says. Although her father is a doctor and her mother, Rhoda Amoah, a registered nurse, Amy does not have much interest in “the clinical side of things.”

Amy was born in Pennsylvania, where her father did his internship and residency training. Her folks moved to Bradenton when she was 1 year old, because, Dr. Amoah says, “I realized that no matter what I did, I could not get used to the cold. I’d never been to Florida but I knew that we were coming here.”

The Sunshine State has a climate similar to Ghana’s. Amy, who’s visited there three times, carries with her the life lessons she learned in her parents’ native country. “The people there might not have a lot of things, but, for the most part, they’re happy,” she says. “And it goes to show you everything is not about material things. It’s about who you’re surrounding yourself with — the family, the community that you have. And that is really what determines your happiness.”

After a pause, she adds, “Does that make sense?”

Yes, Amy, it does.


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