Even though he comes from another country, Emmanuel Megnanglo said that he is not very different from his fellow students at Amelia Academy. “Each of you is in my heart,” he told his fellow students, faculty, and guests at his Chapel Talk, delivered on Feb. 26. Emmanuel spoke about the difficulties of the transition to a new culture that have been made easier by his Academy family and friends.
Growing up in Benin, Emmanuel went to school and played basketball. He has two younger siblings, ages fourteen and five. His father is the manager of a mechanical manufacturing company and a consultant on agricultural technology. His mother, an accountant, is the finance and contract manager for CARE International in Benin and Togo.
After attending the NBA Academy basketball camp in 2019, Emmanuel considered various options to further his education and play basketball. “The good faith of my coach and American dad, Coach Harris and his family allowed me to be with you today,” he said of the decision he made to attend Amelia Academy.
“My first weeks here were both very informative and very entertaining,” Emmanuel said, whose native language is French. At first, he was afraid of speaking and understanding English and adapting to new ways. However, Emmanuel said that he learned and also “benefited from the generosity of many people.” He expressed gratitude to his brother, Greg, for the support that made everything easier. Emmanuel also paid a tribute to his American Dad for taking good care of him and his American Mom. “Thank you to my Mom. . . You are attentive, gentle, and considerate.” A fellow student from Benin, Kevin Hodonou, who also lives with the Harris family this year, has made the transition much easier.
Emmanuel noted that joining a new basketball team was not easy. “We must find the common base between each player and a reason to unite our strength for the good of the team,” he said. Team members must also become like family, he added.
The adaptation to a new school also has been challenging. His friends have helped him “to improve myself day by day,” he said. Emmanuel said his teachers have helped him keep from falling behind, including Jason Morris, his Bible teacher, “who is ready to listen and help me be always better, wherever I am.”
Emmanuel said that “we should never refuse to help others if we have the opportunity and the means, despite what we feel, what someone has told us, or done in the past.” By working to get along with others, we “leave a good image of ourselves,” he said. Another important aspect of positive self-image is staying true to our values and believing in ourselves. “In the greatest difficulties, that is all that will remain for you,” Emmanuel said.
Having been inspired by many people at the Academy, Emmanuel said, “You are a part of my story, and I am a part of yours. I look forward to the rest of the year, because our story is not over.”
During this year’s season, Emmanuel made significant contributions to the Varsity Boys Basketball team and helped the team win the regular season Virginia Colonial Conference championship in post-season competition. In recognition of his achievements, Emmanuel was named to the All-Conference and All-Tournament teams.
Attending the Chapel Talk program were his American parents, Valerie and Greg Harris, and his brothers, Greg and Kevin. Other guests included Veronica Meza, mother of his teammate, Jalen Booker.