Year in School: Junior
Major: Music Education
Hometown: Plainfield, IL
Coming to NIU was the best thing that could have happened to me; not only did I meet people from different types of backgrounds, but I got to learn and grow from hearing their stories. The stories are inspiring, and some even life changing. I want to share my favorite professor and how her story relit my passion for education. My Swahili teacher, Professor Mary Okeyo, also known as, Mama Edward, is a woman who has inspired me to continue on to grad school!
I started taking Swahili last semester (to fill the language requirement for NIU) and as many know learning a new language is not easy!! After a few weeks into the semester I set up weekly tutoring sessions with Mama Edward. During my session we would go over what we were doing in class and she would share stories of her childhood and her travels around the world. To an American in my generation, college education is easy to obtain, but to her, and many Tanzanian farm children, it is a blessing if you get a high school education. She was born in Geita from the Luo Tribe, Swahili is her second language, and English is her third. Growing up she saw the need for great women leaders to help women strive for success. She has been an activist for women ever since. Her focus is on helping women reach their full potential in the education system and encouraging them to not let society determine or put a cap on their success.
Although it has taken her years filled with trials and hardship, Mama Edward is going to graduate with her Masters in Higher Education from Northern Illinois University. She came to America having no experience with Blackboard or even a computer! She adjusted to American slang, the style in which American college functions and even received straight A’s last semester! She was able to pick herself up from the lows and push forward to be successful.
Mama Edward has inspired me to fight for my dreams and to not let anyone tell me that I can’t. Because people will tell you an idea is crazy or that your dreams are unobtainable. She has enlightened me on how to be a powerful African-American woman in this world…So thank you Mary for pushing through your struggles instead of giving up. Thank you for leaving your home and family to come all the way to NIU to teach. You are a strong woman who will help many young ladies follow their dreams.
Asanti sana rafiki wangu! (Thank you my friend)