From Servant to Midshipman
Future Marine Officer Shaped By Running
BANG! At the sound of a gunshot, the runners' legs fire, propelling them down the track at approximately 27 mph. Runners sprint to each relay point, handing off the baton, one after another, until it reaches Midshipman Amanda Agana, who is the anchor for the 4x400 meter relay.
It's her job to run the last 400 meters. Multitudes are watching. It's her against everyone else, and it's win or lose. She darts forward, focused on nothing but being the first to cross the line.
"My greatest accomplishment in my Navy track career is not holding records," said Agana. "It's anchoring the 4x400 meter [relay] and beating Army out of a star."
Agana is a track runner at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. She was born in Bolgatanga (Bolga), Ghana, and has used track to assimilate herself into American culture, something that hasn't been easy.
"I don't really fit into most social groups," she said. "I mean, my [adoptive] mom is Caucasian, blonde hair, blue eyes from Arkansas. My dad is super dark, has a tribal scar on his face, and here I am in the mix. I am neither Caucasian nor African-American. I am African in America and that is a hard place to fit in. So what I want to leave behind is that no matter who you are, no matter the circumstances you came from, you can rise above what you have been placed into."
Agana was almost 13 years old when she came to the U.S., but she didn't lose contact with her African relatives. She makes regular visits to Bolga with her mother, and she keeps in contact with them through social media.
"My African family keeps me grounded," said Agana. "It's easy to forget where you come from when you go from a life of poverty and suffering, and a life of pain and hurt to a borderline luxurious life like the one I'm living here in the U.S. I'm grateful that my African family reminds me every day that there are people less fortunate than me."
She used to be one of those less fortunate people herself. Agana's biological mother died when she was seven and her dad, as the head of the extended Agana family, had many responsibilities. The family is approximately 100 people, and it's his job to provide for everyone else's children as well as his own.
"I felt as though I was a burden to his own responsibilities," said Agana. "I had family outside of the Agana family that could take care of me, and I wanted to give him a break so I asked for permission to go and live with my aunt."