African Refugee Graduates from Ivy League

by Ayvaunn Penn, Your Black World


Morris Kaunda Michael, 23 years old, used to tread across the Kakuma refugee camp of Kenya as a young boy. Now as a young man, he has earned the honor of marching across the stage of Columbia University to receive his diploma with a degree in biochemical engineering. Having completed his B.S. degree last month, he shared on the Today Show: 

“I owe something to the world. As a refugee, you don’t have a lot of things of your own. Most things are gifts. The best I can do is to give back to the community.”

Michael also shared how his home in Africa was torn by civil war and how most of the the people at his refugee camp had lost everything in escaping the violence. He spoke of how lucky he was to be able to remain with his mother and other siblings during the war since many other children were separated from their families. Although living in the refugee camp from 1994 — 2001 was not easy, it was better than being drafted as a boy soldier or being dead. During that time, he was able to get his education and eventually apply to be resettled in the United States. He received his wish of coming to the U.S. in 2003, and was placed in a foster home.

At the time of Michael’s resettlement, he was a high school student. He excelled in his classes here in the U.S. and explored the option of college upon the prompting of his high school counselor who saw his potential. It was all history from there, and that brings us to today. With a B.S. in biochemical engineering under his belt, it is Michael’s desire to further his education in medical school so he can return to African to help the ailing people living in poverty.

Ayvaunn Penn is a spoken word artist and an award winning writer completing her degree in English and philosophy. For more of her witty-word works click here. To have your original poetry featured by Ms. Penn on Your Black Poets, click here.




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