Home » Uncategorized » Umaru Jalloh ’09 Sierra Leonean Civil War Refugee Graduates Columbia University 2014

Umaru Jalloh ’09 Sierra Leonean Civil War Refugee Graduates Columbia University 2014

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Sierra Leonean Civil War Refugee Graduates Columbia University

May 12, 2014 Umaru Jollah, Columbia GS graduateContact: Anna O’Sullivan

347-268-8382  347-268-8382


Sierra Leonean Civil War Refugee Graduates Columbia University

NEW YORK, May 12, 2014—On Oct. 2, 1992,with his brother on his shoulder and mother and sister close behind, Umaru Jalloh ran for his life as grenades exploded and bullets screeched by his head. Twenty-two years later, Jalloh, a 42-year-old Sierra Leonean refugee who has endured personal tragedies such as homelessness and triumphs as a dean’s list student, will graduate from Columbia University School of General Studies May 19 at 9 a.m. in New York City.

Jalloh—the first person in his family to graduate elementary school—could not be more thrilled to earn his B.A. in anthropology.

“I am dedicating my degree not only to my sister, who was forced to drop out of school in second grade because she is female, but also to my brother who also was forced to drop out because of a disability.  I am indebted not only to them, but to all girls and children with disabilities living in marginal circumstances everywhere,” Jalloh said.

Education is not only Jalloh’s personal mission, but it was also his pathway to the United States in 2002. As a political refugee in one of the largest refugee camps in Guinea, he learned from a United Nations field worker of a teacher shortage for English-speaking refugee children in the Guinean capital, Conakry. It was there he met an American who was volunteering at the school who eventually encouraged Jollah to come to the United States to work as a camp counselor in Wading River, N.Y.

“After working at Camp Wolfson and learning new skills from program management and wilderness survival, my desire to be a college-educated, certified teacher was even stronger, and in the fall of 2006, I enrolled at Suffolk County Community College—17 years after graduating from high school. I felt reborn,” Jalloh said.

At SCCC, Jollah was a straight A student and the president of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society, an international honor society of two-year colleges and academic programs. His success at SCCC led him to apply to Columbia University School of General Studies for the spring of 2010.

“When I enrolled at Columbia University, I struggled not only with health issues, but also homelessness.  The School of General Studies, however, stood by me through these tough times, with tuition, housing and medical assistance.  I’ve made life-long friendships; I always felt welcome; and I could not be prouder to be a GS alumnus and a member of the Columbia community,” Jollah said.

After graduation, Umaru Jollah would like to study the history of technology through a joint program through the University of Pennsylvania and the Franklin Institute Museum where he serves as a science fair volunteer.  He has also begun plans to open an inclusive school in rural Sierra Leone called Fairplay Academy to ensure all students receive a quality education.

The School of General Studies of Columbia University is a liberal arts college in the United States created specifically for students with nontraditional backgrounds seeking a rigorous, traditional, Ivy League undergraduate degree full- or part-time. GS students take the same courses, with the same faculty, and earn the same degree as all other Columbia undergraduates. For more information about Umaru Jalloh or the School of General Studies graduation, contact Anna O’Sullivan at 347-268-8382 347-268-8382 or email ao2255@columbia.edu.

Source: Columbia University


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