Amogeshe’s journey

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Nick Lupinacci

Amogeshe Mengel-O’Connell showing his strength

If you are looking for inspiration, you need to look no further than North Penn senior, Amogeshe Mengel-O’Connell. His journey from an orphanage to becoming the Homecoming King runner-up is marked by perseverance through numerous challenges and the influence of caring parents, siblings and teachers.

As a young child in the West African country of Liberia, Amogeshe was abandoned in a grassy field by his biological parents. He never saw his biological parents again and assumes they were killed in a civil war that left 250,000 people in Liberia dead. He was rescued from the field by a nearby orphanage but was moved to a different orphanage shortly thereafter. His experience at the second orphanage, Phebe Gray, was not a happy one. He described sleeping on the floor, starving, and having pepper put in his eyes.

“The staff, they treated me horribly, sometimes they didn’t give me food…and sometimes I got beaten,” Amogeshe explained.

He was eventually taken from the orphanage to the home of a lady named Christine Norman.

“She was like a mother to me; she raised me; she sent me to school,” Amogeshe said.

Christine Norman also arranged Amogeshe’s adoption. At the age of 4, he and another orphan, Ammah, were adopted by Donna Mengel and Daniel O’Connell and brought to Pennsylvania. As part of the Mengel-O’Connell family, Amogeshe and Ammah lived with multiple children who had come from Liberia, Yayou, a girl who had been with him in Phebe Gray, and 3 other children who had been at a different orphanage, Maude, Felecia and Joe.

When Amogeshe initially started school in the United States, he found it very difficult and struggled to fit in. He got into many fights with the other kids, got bullied, got into trouble and misbehaved in class, since he didn’t know how you were supposed to behave in school. When he got to middle school, though, his life turned a corner, and Amogeshe credits his favorite middle school teacher, Mr. Jack Fink, with helping him finally settle into school in the U.S. Amogeshe talks fondly about the positive influence Mr. Fink had on him and the other students.

“He took care of us…and threw us a party when we’d get our work done and behave. We’d have snacks and drinks, and we’d watch a movie,” Amogeshe remembered.

In high school, Amogeshe has really thrived. He was anxious to talk about the many great friends he has made and the great memories he has made, like going to the Elmwood Park Zoo, going to the prom, and running for Homecoming King. Amogeshe ran for Homecoming King because he wanted to become a role model. His parents wholeheartedly supported and encouraged him by making posters to encourage him and having his picture printed on posters and signs. Amogeshe thoroughly enjoyed the Homecoming Week. He got to enjoy the pep rally, Senior Sunrise, breakfast with the Homecoming Court and the football game. Although he didn’t win, Amogeshe was thrilled to be voted as the first runner-up.

I felt very happy, I was very excited; I was jumping in the air; I was cheering; I was thanking God.”

— Amogeshe Mengel-O'Connell

“I felt very happy, I was very excited; I was jumping in the air; I was cheering; I was thanking God,” Amogeshe described.

After high school, Amogeshe wants to go back to Liberia, start a football program for kids and teach them about God. He is already the role model he hoped to become.