My name is Sekou Madave Jr., and I was born in Buduburam refugee camp just 44 kilometers from Accra, in Ghana, on Oct. 10, 2001. Around the age of 5, my family moved to Liberia, where I lived until 2012 when I immigrated to the United States of America. I’ve lived in Rhode Island with my father, stepmother, two stepsisters, and stepbrothers for the past nine years.
When I first moved to the United States, the foreignness of my surroundings was strange and, at times, suffocating. The smell, taste, food, and language were otherworldly and too much for my 11-year-old self to absorb. It was a huge shock when I first saw snowfall out of the sky; where I lived in Liberia, it never snowed. My family’s face was new; it was the first time I’d seen my father. He moved to the U.S. when my biological mother was pregnant with me. At school, I struggled to keep up with my peers. I read below my grade level.
The struggles to adjust to my new worlds follow me in middle school. But this time, the strife became more personal than academic. In sixth grade, I remember a classmate burst into laughter during my presentation. Once he caught his breath, he asked me to speak “African” again. This humiliating and traumatic incident was not isolated, and it took a severe toll on me. For most of my middle school years, I struggled to express myself and closed off from my peers. When the bell signaled dismissal, instead of joining my classmates in after-school activities, I rushed to get home as quickly as possible.
Even though there was some adversity that I had to endure, my middle school years were not all bad because I joined the Onward We Learn of Rhode Island. Because I did not do many after-school activities, the Onward We Learn helped make up for that. The Saturday Cru Club, college visits, and field trips were all events I looked forward to because of the opportunity to meet different students from diverse backgrounds. Up to that point, the only places I’d been were school and back home. Going to these various places and experiencing different things through the Onward We Learn opened my viewpoint to the world outside of my confinements.
The Onward We Learn has, without a doubt, played an essential role in my life. Since coming to the U.S., I’ve created lifelong bonds with fellow Crusaders and advisors. This year, I will be undertaking another critical transition in my life, primarily due to the Onward We Learn and advisors. They helped with college applications and financial aid documents. The hands-on help that I received from the advisor was crucial in helping me get into some of my dream schools. As a result, I will be attending the College of the Holy Cross in the fall of 2021, studying psychology.
Why did you decide to join the Onward We Learn Honorific Program?
I joined the Onward We Learn in sixth grade and, even though I was years away from applying to college, I was still thinking it and I was to get as much information about the college process and life beyond college and the Onward We Learn was invaluable.
Please share a memorable moment you have in the Honorific Program.
The most memorable part of the Honorific program was when we first started working on our college essay. In the beginning, my essay was all over the place, and to see the growth from the first draft to the one I submitted to the colleges was one of the proudest moments during this college process. Also, shout out to Luc Allio.
What role did CoAgena play in your success?
Ana has played an enormous role not only in my success but my life. She goes above and beyond for what an advisor should do; she is concerned about me and other Crusaders’ well-being, especially during COVID-19. Without the assistance of Ana, I would not be in my dream college. (And I do mean this literally. When I could not pay the deposit fee, she found a way). Also, shout out to Ashley.
What are you most looking forward to in your first year of college?
I am looking forward to meeting in person some of the first-year students I met online.
What challenges are you anticipating in the years ahead?
How I would adjust living away from home.
What words of advice do you have for the next group of Honorific seniors (Class of 2022)?
Everyone in the Honorific Program wants you to success, so do not be afraid to ask for help.