By: Amy Xiang
If there is anyone who’s comfortable taking the road less traveled, it’s ACLP Program Director Marissa Kesse. As a second-year nursing student studying healthcare management, Marissa plans to go to law school after her undergraduate career to pursue medical law and healthcare policy.
In fact, it was the law school submatriculation program for nursing students that convinced Marissa that Penn was the right school for her.
“I’ve always been a fairly well-rounded student and I knew I wanted to be a lawyer; it was just a matter of what direction to approach it from,” Marissa said. “By studying nursing first, I have something to fall back on and a way to support myself during law school.”
On campus, Marissa is the program outreach director for Model Congress, the external chair for Minorities in Nursing, the external chair for Penn Ghana, and a member of the Penn Speech and Debate team. She is also heavily involved with community outreach through her work-study job with Penn Libraries.
Outside of academics, Marissa enjoys playing the trumpet, reading books (her favorite book is Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie!), visiting new restaurants, and exploring the city.
Marissa was born in the United States but lived in Ghana for a few years during elementary school before returning to Long Island, New York, where she still lives today.
“Coming back from Ghana and trying to integrate back into American culture was a struggle. I had a strong accent and wasn’t used to the education system here, so it took time for me to become accustomed again,” Marissa said, adding, “I know how much I wish I could have had a mentor there for me when I was going through that, so it's nice that I can offer that to somebody else.”
This experience inspired Marissa to become an ACLP tutor during her first year at Penn, and she has since worked her way up to the role of program director.
“I wanted to maximize my impact by bringing new ideas to the program and pushing it to become the best it could be,” Marissa said, adding that her past role as an ACLP tutor will be able to help her connect with new tutors and make them feel comfortable.
Marissa encourages ACLP students to remember the “beauty and power of being African” despite the possible bullying and other hardships they experience, and she also reassures students that no dream they have is too big: “If there’s something they want to do, we at ACLP are here to help you get there.”