Stories: Nyota

Nyota is college bound

Thanks to friends like you!

Nyota, a young Congolese refugee, is looking forward to something new this fall—her freshman year of the nursing program at DePaul University! She’s one of many youth at RefugeeOne who graduated high school in June 2020, some of whom will be the first in their family to go to college. You’d be amazed at all she’s already overcome.

COVID has brought new challenges to Nyota and her family. She had to finish her senior year remotely, some of her family members lost jobs and had difficulties finding new ones, and her parents are front line workers facing exposure to the virus. Even so, Nyota is committed to entering the healthcare field. She wants to help people in need, no matter the kinds of crises she might face.

Nyota’s parents fled war in the Democratic Republic of Congo and spent ten years in Tanzania, where she was born. RefugeeOne welcomed the family to Chicago in 2016. We helped enroll Nyota at Sullivan High School as a freshman. It was a challenging start–she was two years older than her peers and didn’t speak a word of English. But, not only did she graduate on time, she had multiple college offers!

Despite the challenges she faced, it didn’t take long for Nyota to pick up English, and she excelled in school. “From the beginning, she was a highly motivated student,” said Melissa, our youth program manager. “Education is a strong family value, for Nyota and all her siblings.” RefugeeOne matched each child with an in-home volunteer tutor and engaged them in our after-school program, where we provide homework help, a safe space to talk about the challenges of being refugees and young people, and fun activities.


Since she’s staying in the Chicago area to attend DePaul University, Nyota will continue participating in RefugeeOne’s young adult mentorship program, too. We match young people ages 16-24 with volunteer mentors to help them achieve education and career goals.

RefugeeOne introduced Nyota to her mentor Tess, who is a nurse in the city. Soon after they were matched, COVID started spreading in Chicago. On their regular calls, Nyota appreciates the opportunity to hear firsthand from someone in the field, learning what it’s really like to be a nurse and what it takes to manage the difficult parts of the job—an especially significant conversation during the pandemic.


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