Ernestina Ofori thriving after moving from Ghana to the U.S. for soccer

Growing up in Ghana, Ernestina Ofori fell in love with soccer at a very young age. And it didn’t take her long to realize how soccer was more than just a game—it was a pathway to a different kind of life.

“I wanted to play in college,” Ofori said. “That was a dream of mine since I was a kid. And when this opportunity came up, I was very happy because this was what I was waiting for.”

Ofori’s opportunity came in the form of a scholarship to play for the University of Providence, an NAIA school in Great Falls, Montana. And it was an opportunity that arose with the help of the Rush Changes Lives program.

Actively pursuing any opportunity to play in the U.S., Ofori reached out through her Instagram account (@tina_eso8) with Jennifer Cudjoe, an RCL ambassador, and fellow Ghanaian. Cudjoe watched Ofori’s footage and immediately wanted to help her find a place to continue her development as a player as well as further her education.

“I had a lot of help from Rush,” Ernestina said. “Jennifer and Raoul Voss were both incredibly helpful. Even with the time difference between Ghana and the U.S., they were able to work with me, sticking with me from beginning to end in providing all the information I needed to get the process going.”

Ofori, who enrolled as a freshman this summer at Providence, is pursuing a degree in sports management with the hopes of coaching soccer, a career path she foresees after she accomplishes her more immediate goal of playing professionally.

Growing up playing against boys, Ofori found out she had a knack for the game early. And it was playing against faster and stronger players that helped develop her into the player she is now.

“By the time I was 13, I had a lot of experience playing with guys,” she said. “And when I joined a local academy, it wasn’t as difficult of a transition for me. The biggest challenge was learning to balance my education and soccer.”

And that’s still Ofori’s biggest challenge.

“My family said that I couldn’t just play soccer—I had to learn too,” she said. “I had to do both well. And it took some time to adjust here, but I’m doing well at the moment.”

Ofori, who is the only girl in her family who plays soccer, says she’s grateful to find a soccer family in the U.S.

“I miss my family back home but with me here I have coaches and teammates around who are like my family,” she said. “I don’t really miss home as much because they make me feel at home here and they act as my family and take good care of me, making sure I’m always fit to train and have time to study.”

As Ofori is in the midst of such an incredible opportunity, she already is looking forward to her chance to return the favor for another aspiring Ghanaian player. 

“I want to help others too,” she said. “Coming from Ghana to the United States on your own is very difficult. But with the support from a foundation such as Rush, it’s easy to get into the United States to study and play. And I really want to help other players in the future.”