'Never give up'
That’s what it took for Frank Holdbrook to earn his degree at Memorial University.
But first, it’s what it took to get him here.
The 24-year-old business student and 2022 spring graduate from Accra, Ghana, applied for study visas four times before finally being successful.
His fourth try was going to be his final attempt; in fact, he’d already begun studying business at the University of Ghana when his Canadian visa was approved.
“It was a dream come true,” he said. “I really wanted to study abroad. It was one of my dreams and I wanted to accomplish that.”
Mr. Holdbrook began his studies at the Faculty of Business Administration in the spring of 2019.
When he receives his bachelor of business administration (BBA) degree during convocation at the St. John’s Arts and Culture Centre on June 1, he’ll be the first member of his family to graduate from university.
“I really have a great ambition for entrepreneurship, and I believe that being educated and learning the skills, having the knowledge and getting the experience, it goes hand in hand.”
Mr. Holdbrook is finishing his degree program with an overall GPA of 3.76.
He also received the Ralph L. Finley Scholarship, awarded to undergraduate students who live in residence, have high academic standing and are in need of financial assistance.
“You have to push on. You never give up.”
His road to graduation was difficult, however. When the pandemic hit in 2020, his mother at home in Ghana wasn’t able to work.
He became solely responsible for paying his tuition and fees.
International students are limited in the number of hours they can work, but Mr. Holdbrook did whatever it took.
In 2022 he was promoted from residence assistant to residence co-ordinator, but he also worked at Walmart and did occasional paint jobs for Memorial’s Student Residences.
He also maintained an active volunteer life with the Student Volunteer Bureau, Memorial’s isolation team and through his current employer, TD Canada Trust.
“It was a really hard time. I felt burnt out a lot,” he said. “During those hard times, I just have to think, it’s just you, so you have to push on. You never give up.”
In addition, Mr. Holdbrook started One Nation Apparel in 2021 to share his Ghanaian culture. The ath-leisure line incorporates traditional prints and designs from Ghana and other African countries.
“When I came here, it was a cultural shock and there was limited representation for African clothing,” he said. “I felt we can do something. We can show what we have to the world, but not do it the way it’s already been done.”
Mr. Holdbrook is passionate about business with a social purpose. He aims to develop a non-profit side to his business and currently has a donation page set up on his website with funds directed to a local charity.
He also aims to educate consumers about African culture and current issues, such as cultural appropriation.
“The goal [is to] create something to help other people, not just for making money, but also for building a community, building a society, helping people achieve their dreams.”
“… it’s a way for me to help and give back to the community in Ghana.”
Mr. Holdbrook aims to grow One Nation Apparel in the coming years, eventually opening a storefront and including products from local artists. For now, he’s recently been promoted to personal banking associate at TD.
He would like to return to Ghana eventually and become a politician and engage with philanthropic activities because “it’s a way for me to help and give back to the community in Ghana.”