Cecilia Mensah is shown with a memory collage given to her at the special event.

Cecilia Mensah is shown with the memory collage given to her at the special event.

Photographer: Dimas Philipinanto

Cecilia Mensah and her daughter Delanyo Mensah

Cecilia Mensah and her daughter Delanyo Mensah

Photographer: Dimas Philipinanto

Students, alumni and staff gather together to honor Cecilia Mensah.

Students, alumni and staff gather together to honor Cecilia Mensah

Photographer: Dimas Philipinanto

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Students, alumni and staff honor a community hero

Ohio University students, alumni and staff members planned a special surprise recently for a staff member who has dedicated much of her free time to helping international students

On Saturday, Feb. 10, several Center for International Studies (CIS) alumni and current students encouraged Cecilia Mensah to attend a special event that they dubbed the “Community Heroes Gala.”

They explained to her that the event was being held to recognize outstanding alumni from the CIS, as well as other international students who have done outstanding work at OHIO.

When Cecilia arrived, though, she learned that she was the community hero being honored that evening.

“She was so surprised,” explained Anna-Kaye Rowe, a CIS graduate who currently serves as a program assistant for the Center’s Global Leadership Center. Students, alumni, faculty, staff and area residents all came together to honor Ceciliar for her dedication to helping international students at Ohio University.

“So many current and past Ohio University international students have benefited from her generosity, compassion and her thoughtfulness,” Rowe explained. “We all felt it was fitting to honor her.”

Originally from Ghana, Cecilia moved to Athens with her family more than 10 years ago. Her husband, Dr. Wisdom Mensah, completed both his master’s and doctoral degrees at Ohio University. She currently works for the University’s Culinary Services department, but spends a lot of her time away from work helping Ohio University’s international students.

For many years at Thanksgiving, for example, Cecilia has invited international students to her home so that they can gather together and enjoy a home-cooked meal in a family atmosphere. Last year, that meant a dinner for more than 30 students at her home.

Throughout the year, she offers support and guidance to international students who need assistance and who need help adjusting to life in Athens while they are away from their homes and families.

Many of the students over the years have been part of the CIS, so the Center offered to host the surprise event in its Global Leadership Center in the Research and Technology Center (R-Tech). Approximately 40 people were in attendance and offered tributes and gifts in appreciation of Cecilia’s kindness and commitment to international students in the community. A special feature of the event included a compilation of videos that featured 14 alumni who were unable to attend but shared reflections and tributes of Cecilia’s impact during their time in Athens.