Wolverine Stories: David Adjetey

As told by David Warr

I am human, and there were times that I felt broken, but I would not give up anything for the feeling I received upon graduating from UVU.

David Adjetey

Photo by UVU Marketing


When it comes to education, I am a pioneer in my family. My father did not have any formal education because it was not available to him when he was a child. He always said that if he had been able to go to school, he would have been Ghana's president. This instilled in me the mentality that education could open doors for me. It was always a goal of mine to get as much knowledge as I could.

From an early age, I believed that anyone could be whatever they wanted to be if they were dedicated and had a drive for success. During high school, I joined the national and Olympic teams for Ghana. Taekwondo came naturally to me, so I could compete at an elevated level while putting forth minimal effort.

For me, taekwondo is more than a sport — it is a way of life. When I was growing up in Ghana, there was a belief that only bullies knew martial arts, and they used it to hurt people. Kids would get into fights in the streets to prove who was stronger. So, my dad was not happy when I told him that I wanted to learn taekwondo. I believe that taekwondo did not teach me to bully others but to be able to defend myself. It gave me self-confidence and assurance that I did not have to prove myself to anybody. I was the oldest of five children, and I wanted to give my younger siblings a good example. I would practice taekwondo for two hours every morning before school. This taught me a strong work ethic and a passion for success. The lessons I learned from taekwondo have helped me throughout the various stages of my life.

Following my parents' deaths in 2000 and 2005, I became the leader of my family. In my culture, the oldest son handles the well-being of his siblings if his parents die. So overnight, I took on a father's role to my siblings and tried to juggle all my responsibilities. I barely started college, and now I was trying to make ends meet for my four siblings and me. To work and support my family, I deferred my education for one year. I made sure that my siblings were going to school and that I supported them. In 2008, I had the opportunity to go to the United States to pursue a taekwondo career at the highest level. In my senior year in college, I felt the pressure to support my family, but I realized that I had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to go to the United States. I decided to come to the U.S., leaving my education behind. That year I started training for the Olympics. This was the first time that I remember giving my all to taekwondo, training from sunup to sundown, with the hopes of making it into the 2012 Olympics. I had placed all my eggs in one basket, and, by this point, education was entirely out of the picture. This was a hard decision because I still believed that education would open doors for me.

My dreams of competing in the 2012 Olympics slipped away as I lost in the final qualifying round by one point. At this time in my life, I was at a crossroads — I could set aside an added four years of my life to train for the next Olympics or take the necessary steps toward returning to my education. After thoroughly considering my options, I decided to apply to some universities and practice taekwondo in my spare time. I was accepted to UVU and started in what I like to call the "101 classes." They were difficult for me because I was not accustomed to American English. The British colonized Ghana in the 1800s, so the English I was familiar with was of British descent. My first professor was extraordinary. He would tell me areas that I could improve upon and motivate me to do better.


One of the greatest blessings that I received for coming to the U.S. was meeting my beautiful wife and raising our three kids together. After getting married and starting a family, schoolwork became even more challenging for me. Following a schedule like my training schedule that I had used in Ghana helped me balance my life and carry out the things that I needed to do. If I could wake up at 5 a.m. and practice taekwondo for two hours before school, why couldn't I get up early and study for my classes before work? One of the gifts that God blessed me with was a positive attitude; I do not let negativity drag me down. I would get to work by 5 a.m., work until 5 p.m., and head to school for my night classes. Sometimes I would be at school until midnight, drive home, and wake up the next day at 5 a.m. for work. Other nights, I would stay up all night and get my schoolwork done. If I needed to get something done at work, I would arrive there at 4 a.m. and get it done. This was my schedule during the week. On the weekends, I worked a second job, stocking grocery stores with bread, and I drove Uber at night. On average, I got four hours of sleep per night. People always asked me, "When do you sleep?" They would remind me that sleep is essential. I would tell them that yes, rest is necessary, but everyone has their priorities. One of my biggest priorities is to stay out of debt and make sure my family has whatever they need. So, I can either be burdened by debt or go out, work hard, and make it happen. That is what I choose to do every day.

Not only was I supporting my wife and kids, but I was still sending money to my four younger siblings in Ghana. I always wanted to make sure that I took care of them. Fortunately, I received support from my amazing spouse, dedicated professors, bosses, and friends. I will not pretend like it was an easy time of my life. I am human, and there were times that I felt broken, but I would not give up anything for the feeling I received upon graduating from UVU. Some people say that a degree is just a piece of paper, but for me, a degree means that I can move up in the world; I am not just stuck in one job for the rest of my life. My degree is an example for my kids. If their immigrant father could graduate from college, then they can do it too. My degree is an example to my younger siblings that their older brother could make something of himself in the world. I know that my parents are proud of me for doing this challenging thing. My father always told me that he could leave me his land and everything that a father should leave his children, but if I did not have the knowledge and education to manage them, I could lose everything overnight. Since graduating, I have received a promotion within the company where I work. I know there is so much out there for me in the world.

I graduated from UVU in December 2019, and even with the pandemic, I decided to walk at graduation. This was a sweet moment for me. It was the culmination of all the challenging work that I had put in, both in school and at work. I want to thank UVU for the doors that it has opened for me by educating me and giving me a degree. I am retired from taekwondo, but I still live by its tenets as they guide me through my life. From 2015-2016 I ranked 12th in the world for my weight division in taekwondo and was the only Ghanaian to compete in the World Taekwondo Grand Prix. My drive for success, work ethic, positive attitude, and confidence all trace back to taekwondo.