TEAK Class: 2
High School: Westtown School
College: Caldwell College
Graduate School: NYU Wagner Graduate School of Public Service
Profession: Founder & Executive Director of Girls Education Initiative of Ghana
In honor of International Women’s Month, we wanted to highlight an alumna working to empower women and girls. Elizabeth Patterson, Class 2, is the Founder and Executive Director of Girls Education Initiative of Ghana.
Elizabeth and her family emigrated from Ghana when she was a child. She joined The TEAK Fellowship and immediately set forth on the demanding task of preparing for and applying to some the most competitive high schools in the country. In April of 2003, during her junior year at Westtown, Elizabeth was involved in a van accident at school and sustained serious head injuries. After being hospitalized for months and undergoing multiple surgeries, Elizabeth worked intensively for a year to regain her speech and much of her range of motion. Her great strides in recovery are a testament to her tireless work ethic and remarkable spirit.
In 2006, Elizabeth visited Ghana and found her calling: to change the expectations and opportunities for girls in her native land. Below she shares some thoughts on her time at TEAK and her Ghana-based non-profit, The Girls Education Initiative of Ghana (GEIG).
Briefly describe your time at TEAK
TEAK was transformational in my life. TEAK supported my family and me during trying times for us. We came to the US in 1995 and my parents always wanted my sister and I go to the best schools. TEAK was the answer we were looking for. The staff supported in the application processes and stayed connected with us in/out of school. TEAK was especially supportive of my family and me in 2003 when I was in a car accident while in my junior year at Westtown. Justine Stamen and Jacques Pierre (former staff) were among the first people at the hospital when I was rushed to the emergency room.
Tell us a bit about Girls Education Initiative of Ghana
I founded the Girls Education Initiative of Ghana, GEIG in 2014 to provide access to quality and inclusive education(al) opportunities for girls, including girls (and boys in our community activities) with special needs or disabilities so they can access higher education and professional opportunities. To date, we have 3 young women in tertiary institutions, 15 in senior high school, and 17 in junior high school. We are on track to open up our after-school programs to a greater number of students from our partner schools and communities. We have initiated a program to extend our support to our girls’ families to start businesses so they can sustain themselves and their families.
Favorite Memory at TEAK:
CATS shows with George and Barbara Kovacs
Advice for current TEAK Fellows:
Take advantage of every opportunity TEAK presents and make the most of the network TEAK is supporting to cultivate. They will become your greatest allies and asset in the near future.
Get in touch with Elizabeth: