I was a Sun Chief before I became a Tiger…
I mentioned in a blog a year ago that when I was preparing to come to Nigeria, my colleague “googled” me to learn more about me (https://fredayinafrica.com/2015/01/29/i-googled-you-when-i-heard-that-you-were-coming-to-nigeria/). And, as I admitted in that blog, I often “google” myself just to see what the world-wide-web is saying about me. Say what you want to say, but I would like to keep the information that the world-wide-web is putting out about me positive and as private as possible. I recognize that with a Facebook page, a Twitter account and a blog, my life is available for the world to see but there are still things I like to keep private. In one of my recent searches, I ran across an essay I wrote for the Alabama Community College System celebrating 50 years.
Anyone who knows me knows that I am a lover of all things Auburn. I am a proud graduate of the “loveliest village on the plains” and proudly sports Auburn’s emblem on all my clothes, including those items made in Nigeria. But just as proud as I am about being an Auburn Alum, I am proud that I chose to spend my first two years at James H. Faulkner State Community College (http://www.faulknerstate.edu/). I can’t say that my initial choice of attending Faulkner State was an easy one. After high school, I dreamed of escaping small town life in Mount Vernon, Alabama and heading off to a far flung destination. But after discussing the decision with my parents, my school counselor and several teachers, I decided the offer to attend Faulkner was to go to pass up. I was given a presidential scholarship that covered my tuition for two years and eventually served as a Resident Assistant which covered my room and board for my second year. And nearly 20 years after making that decision, I have no regrets. It was the right place for me despite the few naysayers that disagreed with my decision. Faulkner was the launching pad I needed. It prepared me for my transfer to Auburn and has prepared me for the stops that I have made on my professional journey.
I wanted to share this essay and to celebrate Faulkner State for its often invisible, yet important role it has played in my life. It’s easy to celebrate Auburn because each fall I decorate my Nigerian apartment in orange and blue and follow the progress of the football team. But for Faulkner, there is no football team, only memories of basketball games, annual trips to Gatlinburg and friends who are still in my life today.
Faulkner State Community College was the launching pad that propelled me into life. I knew I was not ready for a large college environment where I would be lost among thousands of students. Faulkner State’s intimate class size and smaller student body was the right mix for my education on the Bay Minette campus and my continued success in life.
I gained important leadership skills serving as Student Government Association vice president and management skills as a resident assistant in on campus housing. These skills are now on display as I work in South Sudan building leadership and organizational skills among political party leaders in the world’s newest country.
When I was deciding what college to attend, one of my high school advisors was flabbergasted that I was planning to attend a community college. Her words to me were, “You are throwing away your collegiate experience by attending a community college.” While she had a right to her opinion, her sentiment only increased my desire to succeed at Faulkner and prove her wrong in the process.
In many ways, I was following tradition. My mother had attended an Alabama community college before continuing her education at a four-year university. And in other ways, I was starting a tradition of students from my hometown attending Faulkner State before transferring to four-year universities (many of those students would follow me to Auburn University). Faulkner State’s success is not determined by the misguided views of a few, instead its success is determined by the professional successes of its former students.
Today, I am a proud graduate of Faulkner State Community College and I am using the skills I developed at FSC to steer the newest African nation towards a free and open democratic government.