At the Middlesex County Jail and House of Correction, Tisch Scholar
Amanda Borquaye, A18, was met with intimidation—but it wasn't on
her part. One of her students, a man in his fifties, was afraid to
read aloud to her. "Society says that older people are a fountain of
knowledge," Borquaye says. "They are, but sometimes you have to
Borquaye is improving access to education for students old and
young—not only for the incarcerated people she mentors, but also
through a scholarship fund she started for female students in rural
Competition vs. Collaboration
At her Savannah, Georgia, high school, Borquaye found that life was
competitive over collaborative—Tufts was the refreshing opposite.
"Everyone's successful and ambitious," she says, "but also all about
helping a neighbor or a peer." Borquaye has always shared the same
spirit and wanted to bring that energy into the community as a Tisch
Scholar at the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life.
With its mission of embedding civic and community engagement across
the University, Tisch College has been the ideal setting for
Borquaye. "The college has partnerships with so many organizations,"
she says. "And so many organizations that want to work with them."
The Petey Greene Program (PGP) is one such place—and Borquaye was
eager to head up the Tufts chapter. PGP aims to educate incarcerated
students of all ages, reimagining life in the criminal justice
system. Volunteering with local teachers, Borquaye teaches English
as a Second Language (ESL), as well as basic math, reading
comprehension, science, and essay writing to Middlesex incarcerated
people so they can complete their GED diploma.
In the fall of 2015, Borquaye drove up to the prison gates for the
first time and handed her driver's license to the guard. She was
nervous, but determined. "I want to provide outside interaction for
these people, not someone who tells them where to go, what to eat,
when they can sleep or shower," she says. "They deserve dignity,
self-fulfillment, and a sense of achievement—to do something
productive while in captivity."
Two years later, coming to Middlesex has become routine for Borquaye.
The number of Tufts students in the program has doubled, and they
are now volunteering at two facilities.
"Amanda is thoughtful about the stewardship of the program," says
Anne Moore, a program specialist for Scholar Development at Tufts.
"She's worked with the prison administration to meet their needs and
also incorporated the program into the campus culture at Tufts,
enlisting 35 volunteers who could not get tutoring placements to
help her host campus discussions, and carefully selecting someone to
run the program in her absence while she studied abroad."
One of Borquaye's favorite inmates is thriving and became a role
model for his fellow students. "I'm so proud of him," she says. "He
wrote beautiful essays, but struggled with reading comprehension,
and the test doesn't accommodate for a lack of concentration."
Borquaye spent months working on strategies for him to stay focused.
He, in turn, tutored his cellmates. "It was awesome to see his
development and determination." He just passed his GED exam and is
being released soon, with plans to become a small business owner.
As for her older student who was nervous to read aloud?
"I told him, I'm not a teacher," she says. "This is a collaboration.
You also carry a wealth of knowledge that I don't have. We're both
learning from each other."
A Family Business
Borquaye's family is originally from Ghana. Her grandmother,
Margaret Ka Ado, never had a formal education and didn't speak
English, but they communicated in a broken tongue of mixed
languages, and Borquaye understood how important education was to
her. Ten years after her death, Borquaye says, "My sister and I
wanted to memorialize this pinnacle family figure."
The Margaret Kaa Addo Scholarship will help girls in rural Ghana
with entrepreneurial dreams, but limited means, receive an
education. "We can't let financial burden deprive the world of a
whole generation of people who want to share their talents and
passion," Borquaye says, adding that teen pregnancy is a common
route for woman in Ghana, because it's the clear alternative to
education. "We don't want that to be the only option, if you desire
more." The fund is in its early days, but Borquaye and her sister
are establishing partnerships with foundations in Accra, hoping to
accept the inaugural cohort next year.
"As a person only two generations removed from poverty, Amanda is
deeply familiar with the benefits of physical and economic
mobility," Moore says. "Educational access enabled her to understand
her full potential, and she has been able to translate that
potential into a deep commitment in order to enable the same kind of
physical and intellectual mobility for others, especially for people
who are trapped by arbitrary determinants like geography and
The Place for Her Passion
When Borquaye came to Tufts, she knew this was the university that
would prepare her to change the world. "There was just something
about it," she says. "I'm genuinely inspired by my peers every day.
They're doing so many wonderful, important things that are going to
change the world, or at least the communities we live in."
In other words, she says, "They're a bullet train towards a better
With so much advocacy and community work under her belt and plans to
work in public policy after graduation, Borquaye could be describing
her own legacy.
This summer she'll be continuing her work with Tisch College, this
time as a Tisch Summer Fellow in Washington, D.C. for the
anti-poverty nonprofit LIFT. Amanda sees the work that she's doing
as her civic duty—and she plans to dedicate her life to the
effort. "As someone who has had everything: a loving family and
material resources to accomplish my dreams, there is no excuse for
me not to be putting in the work to make the world a better place
for other people. I'm thankful to be at a university that supports