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CCRI graduate fled war-torn Liberia
Student Success Story, May 25, 2011
Seaneh Vezele’s name means “to have a very successful journey that never ends.”
Her journey began in war-torn West Africa and took her to the Community College of Rhode Island, where she achieved a dream her family has long had for her. Now, her purpose in life is beginning to be realized.
“The biggest reason we came to this country was to have a better life and get an education,” Vezele said. “Now I’m doing that and it’s like a dream come true.”
Vezele, 27, of Providence does not remember much about her native Liberia. She was living there with her parents and four sisters when a civil war broke out in 1989. It was a conflict that eventually would claim 222,000 people, but the Vezele family fled in 1991.
“I remember when the war broke out, there was a lot of violence, but we got out of there immediately,” she said.
Vezele’s father had been educated in the United States and he returned to find a job, sending back all the money that he could. He would send for the family to join him in the United States when he was more financially secure.
In the meantime, Vezele and the rest of her family waited in the Buduburam Refugee Camp in Ghana. Her mother built a house for the family from whatever materials were available and worked as a first-grade teacher for children of the refugees. By the height of the civil war, the camp’s population had swelled to 45,000 people.
After four years in the refugee camp, the family was reunited in the United States in 1995, when Seaneh was 12 years old. She saw snow for the first time on the day she arrived.
“When we came to America, my family was very grateful,” Vezele said. “And I thank my father for giving us the opportunity of a lifetime.
“It took a long time for our family to adjust,” she added.
Vezele’s father remained, for a time, the sole breadwinner of the family of seven, and the Vezele’s had to rely on church donations for their clothing.
But, over time, Vezele’s mother attended school as well and is now a certified nursing assistant. Her father is a chemical engineer. “My parents are doing much better and were able to buy a home that they live in today,” Vezele said.
In the meantime, the Vezeles had a son here and encouraged all of their children to get an education. Vezele graduated from Hope High School in 2002 and enrolled at CCRI right away.
Her first major was nursing and she pursued it for several years, attaining CNA status and a job at Charlesgate Nursing Home, but she decided after a few years that this path was not for her.
“You have to find a passion for what you want to be in life,” Vezele said. “I have a passion for social work, and nursing is not for everyone.”
In 2006, Vezele changed her major to social work. “Since then it all started coming together,” she said. “I was completely motivated to succeed.”
Vezele quit her job in 2009 to focus being a full-time student and completing her new major as soon as possible.“It wasn’t easy taking classes full time, but I was determined and my family and professors helped me,” Vezele said. “I thank God for my family – especially my 7-year-old son, Sean – and my teachers.”
Now a CCRI graduate with a 3.0 GPA, Vezele is transferring to Rhode Island College and hopes to earn a master’s degree in social work or psychology.
“My goal is to eventually return to my native land and help with the social and economic development of my country,” she said.
“I want to help people in any way possible and be able to give back to my country, ” she added. “I want to make a difference in the world and be a role model to my son.”
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