April 24, 2014
Essah Cole Uses Love for Spanish Culture to Serve
VALDOSTA – On any given Monday for the past semester, Essah Cole could be spotted on the pedestrian mall of Valdosta State University passing out small pieces of paper that contained inspirational quotes.
“My most recent Motivational Monday message was, ‘Do not wait for others to confirm your greatness. Face yourself every day and challenge yourself to overcome any obstacle,’” said Cole. “It not only makes me feel good. It helps others. I believe that we all need a little pat on the back sometimes, and this is my way of being a blessing to people.”
An interdisciplinary studies major with concentrations in English as a Second Language (ESOL), Spanish and creative writing, Cole plans to make a career out of helping others. In July, she will travel to Guatemala to begin training with the Peace Corps.
“My service begins in October and I will be there for two years and three months,” said Cole.
During her service in Guatemala, Cole will be placed in a town where she will assist with after-school programs for middle and high school students and promote leadership and health awareness programs.
A fan of the Spanish culture, Cole has immersed herself in the culture for many years.
“My parents are Liberian and my neighbor and best friend are Hispanic,” said Cole. “The majority of my friends were, and still are, immigrants, and I learned so much about other cultures during my childhood. I believe this is what has made me so versatile and open to change. I just want to continue to learn more about different groups of people and their ways of life. I believe you learn more about yourself through others.”
Cole has studied abroad in Puerto Rico and will complete her last two credit hours for Spanish in Panama studying Latin civilization during second summer in June.
“When I left for my first study abroad opportunity, I just needed a change of scenery,” said Cole. “I learned so much and used it as a time to enjoy Puerto Rico and my time with God. I always encourage others to study abroad at least once because it is just a great experience.”
For Cole, the opportunity to serve with the Peace Corps is “a dream.”
“I would eventually like to teach, but I do not want to go straight into teaching after graduation,” said Cole. “I want to have something to give my students when I actually do start teaching. This will give me an opportunity to work with children, mentor, and build on my Spanish speaking.”
The service program provides a stipend for Cole and will provide a variety of options to assist her with attending graduate school upon her return.
Cole credits the Office of Career Opportunities for introducing her to the Peace Corps.
“My roommate, Keyanna Seville, had been telling me about co-op and then Mrs. Carla Jordan came and spoke in one of our classes,” said Cole. “I went to see her and we discussed different options. When she asked me what I wanted to do, I told her that I want to travel and help people and write journals and books about every country I go to. She looked at me and said, ‘You are just screaming Peace Corps.’ She told me that I do not like boxes and need something that will allow me to be me and still do what I want to do in life.”
Cole worked with Jordan during the 2013 fall semester to connect with Peace Corps representatives and complete her essay and application process.
“In December I was notified that I had been nominated to go to Guatemala,” said Cole. “From there, I had to turn in legal documents and get pre-cleared. During the first week of March, I received notice that I was accepted. I was in my car at the time, and I was so excited that I screamed in the car.”
Cole stated that being accepted is evidence that things are “falling into place” for her.
“I have faced so many obstacles in the past year, but I knew it was because I had something great coming. I read a quote that said when everything seems like it is falling apart, that is when God is putting everything together. Every great thing that has happened to me, I give all to Him. I feel like as humans, we get comfortable when we accomplish things or gain status, but we have to humble ourselves and realize that these are just steps for us to fulfill our purpose.”
The graduating senior looks forward to making an impact on others’ lives and continuing to learn and grow culturally.
“The past year has allowed me to find myself and now I am following my dreams and my passions, and I encourage others to do the same,” Cole said. “I tell others to follow their dreams so they will not get stuck following someone else’s.”
Cole was a part of the African Students Association and Deep Release Poetry Society. She is also a conversation partner with VSU’s English Language Institute, which helps students develop English-speaking skills. She was recently awarded Outstanding Scholar at the Collegiate Women of Valdosta State University’s Girls Rock Ceremony.