As a student of the academy, Ballah has had far from an ordinary high school experience, but he said it has been the best he could ask for. When he graduates in June, he will not only receive his high school diploma, but also an associate degree.
“The Academy of Health Sciences offered the opportunity to really push myself in ways I’ve never pushed myself before, which was taking college classes while taking high school classes,” Ballah said.
The decision to attend the academy was not an easy one for Ballah. He would have to leave his friends who would attend Bowie or Eleanor Roosevelt High Schools and put himself out of his comfort zone, but he knew it would help his parents out with paying for college and would give him a head start.
Now looking forward, Ballah is determined to become an educator himself. Whether it is at the University of Maryland, College Park, the University of Maryland, Baltimore County or at Towson University, he is ready to build upon his passion for education.
“With my passion for education, I thought it would make more sense to go to an in-state school and build up my connections in Maryland, if I want to teach in Maryland,” he said. “I wanted to become a secondary education teacher and I think that just stems from always having a respect for teachers and a general appreciation for education, because coming from a Third World country, the appreciation for education is something that helps you succeed in life and is something that is instilled in you.”
Coming from the Republic of Guinea in Africa, Ballah feels it is a personal responsibility “not only (to) use education as a tool to excel” himself, but to also “use it as a tool to excel other people.”
“I just know that I want to teach high school because I think that, especially in the 11th grade, that’s when people decide they’re going to take their studies seriously, or school is just something they’re not going to do,” he said. “I hope to get as many people as possible to take their education seriously so college is nothing they’re scared of and their dreams are not limited.”
While in school, he has found callings in various places, including some that have surprised him. One passion that arose out of an English class is his love for poetry in the form of spoken word.
“Poetry is something that became very dear to me. Like, I had no idea I would be a poet, but it is something that really developed in my ninth grade year,” he said.
Ballah performs his poetry all across the area and said it adds more “substance” to his life.
Ballah is also a member of the school’s honor society, is the president of the school’s Health Occupation Students of America and is a member of Phi Theta Kappa. He was chosen as a representative for the school at the Middle College National Consortium. And he is also taking part in the Peer Health Education and Advocacy Program at Prince George’s Community College, a group that talks about health issues that affect young adults.
“The first words I think of are eloquent, confident, poised, talented, but those words don’t do him justice,” said Ballah’s former teacher Jason Ray. “What really makes Benjamin tick is his desire to serve others. That’s his priority, so those other talents he has, they work in service of his bigger goals, which is that he wants to help humanity.”