“I arrived in the U.S. in 2000 with only $11 in my pocket, a suitcase and a dream. After tremendous trials, today I finally feel I’m well on my way to achieving my goals. Bay Path College and the One-Day-A-Week Saturday Program are bringing me one step closer to making my desire to pursue international and human rights law a reality. One day, I hope to return to Kenya—my native country—and play a role in advancing democracy and justice. Bay Path is preparing me to succeed in my future endeavors.
Earlier this year, I was among a select number of students who were chosen as speakers’ guides at Community Matters!, Bay Path’s 15th Annual Women’s Leadership Conference. I had the unique privilege to accompany two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times columnist and author Nicholas Kristof. His book Half the Sky and my Bay Path course Violence against Women further inspired my goal of arriving in the Eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo after graduation to help women living in the “rape capital of the world,” a name given to the region by Mr. Kristof and UN official Margot Wallstrom.
By spending the afternoon with him and his hero, Cambodian human rights activist Somaly Mam, I could discuss with them their global work and my aspirations. My goal is to help the Congo women, who speak primarily French and Swahili, in the pursuit of justice and be a voice for them. Mr. Kristof encouraged me to contact Harper McConnell, who is currently working at HEAL Africa in the Congo, while Somaly Mam advised me to remain strong and to “go back home, go and help the women.”
Just two weeks before this affirming experience, I was given another remarkable opportunity through my involvement in the AIDS Foundation of Western Massachusetts. As a college student on the Foundation’s advisory board and a sister caring for her 16-year-old brother, I find myself drawn to educate teenagers about HIV/AIDS—the most vulnerable group to new infections of this preventable disease. This is a calling I could not abandon given my experiences living in Africa, where people are more heavily affected by HIV and AIDS than any other place in the world. I have lost many family and friends to the illness, and I have many relatives and friends who are living with the illness. It is important for me on a very personal level to get involved and to help those struggling with the illness right here in the community and beyond.
My relationship with the AIDS Foundation led me to pursue an essay competition, where I discussed the impact of Nobel Peace Prize winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s contributions to my homeland and the global community. Within days I learned I would be among the 1,200+ students who would attend Archbishop Tutu’s historic lecture in Springfield. However, I was blessed once again. My essay drew the attention of the event organizers, and I was invited to meet Archbishop Tutu during a luncheon after his address. Speaking to me in Swahili, he graciously welcomed me. It was such an honor to be in this man’s presence and to thank him face-to-face for all he has done for my people and the world.
In part, these opportunities would not have been possible if I did not have the support of Bay Path administrators, faculty and staff, who have encouraged my vision of a better world along the way. Professors, like Dr. John Jarvis, Atty. Liz Dineen, and Atty. Kevin Maltby, and Maura Devlin—my career advisor, a good friend, and a pillar of strength for me when times are difficult—are amazing individuals who inspire me to follow my passions. I’ve pursued activities outside the One-Day program, which strengthen my education. From my involvement in Model U.N.—a traditional undergraduate course—and its subsequent national seminar held in Boston to representing Bay Path at the Public Leadership Education Network (PLEN) on Women & International Policy Seminar in Washington, D.C., Bay Path has opened doors, both academically and financially, for me to excel, and I’ve seized those moments.
The challenges of raising my younger brother single handedly while maintaining a G.P.A. of over 3.8, and holding down a job have continued to foster my belief that hard work and resilience do pay off. I know without my faith I wouldn’t be where I am today and I can’t wait to see what other doors God will continue to open for me on this journey. The sky is the limit for this girl who came from a very humble background.
Bay Path is where I belong. I now know where I want to be; I know where I am going; and I will let nothing stand in the way of achieving my dream. ”
- Donna is currently studying for the LSAT exams, and she intends to pursue a career in international and human rights law..