At the recent African Youth conference held at Montgomery College’s Takoma campus in November, alumni of local African Clubs gathered to compare notes and report on their lives. They were so confident and loquacious, it was hard to believe that less than 10 years ago many were experiencing culture shock as they adjusted to life in suburban Maryland.
Young Adje Koite is a case in point. The African Club alumnae proudly displayed a sash reading, “Miss Senegal, Washington,” on top of her dress. She’s now a business major at Montgomery College. But life was not always so easy for Adja.
“I was 12 when I left Sierra Leona and entered White Oak Elementary in Silver Spring. I was a very shy person – I didn’t do school projects or join any activities. I needed help learning English, and how to fit in, and at the same time to be comfortable in my own skin, to love my own culture. The African Club at my middle school started me on the road.”
“I saw student leaders at my school, Cardoza High, who were African immigrants. They spoke fluent English and led the African Club. That was an inspiration to me. I wanted to be like them. I had a chance to learn leadership skills in the African Club,” said Ivan Ango. Originally from Cameroon, Ango is now a student at James Madison University in Virginia.