While pursuing his bachelor’s degree at San Francisco State University, Pingdewinde Sam, known to his friends and family as PSam, was the first undergraduate mentee at a University of California San Francisco research lab that focused on translational neuroscience research. This experience inspired him to pay it forward and help other underrepresented minority students pursue their interests in STEM studies. Since joining the cellular and molecular physiology program at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in 2015, PSam has mentored two high school students and one college student while pursuing his doctorate in mitochondria health and diseases.
In 2012, PSam achieved his dream of forming a nonprofit organization when he founded Teêbo to help eliminate poverty and hunger, improve literacy, combat water-related diseases by drilling wells, and improve overall health within his home country of Burkina Faso, in West Africa.
“My passion for helping others came from my background,” says PSam. “I grew up in a family with parents who desire to serve the community. Even when we lived in the capital city, I saw how my dad kept an eye on the villages.”
Teêbo means “hope” in Mooré, the country’s national language. Knowing how few educational opportunities exist in Burkina Faso’s rural villages, PSam sought to improve the odds for students who simply lack the opportunity to grow. In addition to providing tuition assistance, supplies and books, Teêbo’s exam prep program prepares sixth graders for the national exam, a requirement to enter seventh grade. The success rate for students in the program tripled from 30% to 98%.
PSam oversees Teêbo’s operations from Baltimore, with additional staff in San Francisco and Burkina Faso. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, PSam visited West Africa once a year. One of PSam’s proudest moments was in 2016, when his organization helped a rural village dig a well to provide clean, healthy and drinkable water. The day the well opened, PSam was amazed that the village chief had invited thousands from neighboring villages to come and see the impact of the well. Teêbo has helped the villagers maintain the well since its opening, and it is still functional today.