Anyone meeting Maxwell Doku for the first time is immediately drawn to his soft-spoken demeanor and natural smile. But spend a bit more time with the Ghanaian immigrant and you'll quickly learn that steely determination and grit simmer just below his gentle manner.
At the age of 12 he bought a bicycle and rode 15 miles each way between home and school. His father had lost his job and the family couldn't afford other transportation, but Doku was determined to not give up his schooling.
His mother, whom Doku calls "my hero in my life," sold items at a local market to support her son's education, setting an example for hard work and sacrifice Doku will never forget. An example he continues to follow.
While struggling to pay for a well-regarded boarding school in Ghana, the then high-school-age Doku artfully sneaked off campus at night to earn tuition money himself. Working late hours was exhausting and demanding, but for Doku, worth the struggle to stay in school.
Getting his green card to come to the United States was "like a miracle that happened to me," noted Doku.
After landing in Columbus he found a manual labor job to help finance his dream of becoming a physician. Realistically, though, Doku knew he needed to get into a career quickly, so he decided to begin his educational journey with nursing school. His dreams turned to disappointment when he was waitlisted at some nursing programs and found he could not afford the cost of a degree at others.
Until a friend told him about COTC.
Still working full time, Doku enrolled in COTC's Health Services Technology associate degree program in summer 2018. His life further changed dramatically when he was awarded the COTC Board of Trustees Scholarship in spring 2019, which is available to continuing students who demonstrate academic success, financial need and a commitment to community service.
"I was not going to stop at high school," remembers Doku. "I don't want to give up."
Now, Doku will follow his dream and begin COTC's Associate Degree nursing program in summer 2019. He's also exploring COTC's Path2BSN program, a seamless transfer option in which students earn an associate degree at COTC and then complete a Bachelor of Science in Nursing online at The Ohio State University. Ultimately Doku plans to earn a master's degree in nursing, with the intent of becoming an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse.
As with many healthcare professionals, Doku's calling is personal. His mom, who worked so hard on his behalf, became ill and fell into a coma that lasted three months.
"Because of that experience, I want to help people," said Doku. "I believe that the world needs people who want to help; who want to touch lives."
In addition to college, Doku still works two part-time jobs so he can send money home to his family, enabling his siblings to get an education.
"Challenge has become my friend," he said with a smile. "Yes, life is difficult, but education is everything."
*Originally published in the 2018- 2019 Impact Report
May 2020 Update: Doku is beginning his third semester in the nursing technology program. He completed COTC's Electrocardiography Certificate program. He is currently working at Ohio Health Hospital as a Patient Service Assistant. He plans to continue his education through COTC's partnership with The Ohio State University known as the Path2BSN.
COTC's nursing programs are widely recognized as among the best in central Ohio. COTC offers associate degree nursing (ADN), a traditional five-semester plan of study; practical nursing (PN), a one-year certificate program; LPN to ADN transition, a three-semester transition option for LPNs; and State Tested Nurse Aide (STNA) course.
COTC is a fully accredited, public college dedicated to providing high-quality, accessible programs of technical education in response to current and emerging employment needs. COTC is the only technical college in Ohio operating four full-service campus locations: Newark, Coshocton, Knox and Pataskala.