CSU Voices and Views

Education Bringing Me to Great Heights

Chinonyerem Kamalu attended Sac State after hearing Sac State President Alexander Gonzalez speak about the importance of college during CSU Super Sunday. She received the President’s Awards, an honored bestowed by President Gonzalez during commencement, in recognition of her academic excellence and commitment to service.

Chinonyerem Kamalu attended Sac State after hearing Sac State President Alexander Gonzalez speak about the importance of college during CSU Super Sunday. She received the President’s Awards, an honored bestowed by President Gonzalez during commencement, in recognition of her academic excellence and commitment to service.

By Chinonyerem “Nonye” Kamalu
Sacramento State Alumna

After migrating here from Nigeria in 2004, going to college was on my bucket list but it wasn’t my number one priority because I wanted to save up some money before going back to school. My father always told me that receiving a higher education would take me to great heights and most importantly it is an asset that no one can take away from me. I didn’t quite understand until I enrolled at Sac State.

When I first got to the U.S., I started working at an elderly home for people with developmental disability to earn money to pay for college. Years went by and I still hadn’t enrolled in school. As a caregiver, we attended church with everyone in the home and that’s when things changed. One Sunday, at St. Paul’s Baptist Church, the pastor stopped the service to introduce the president of Sac State, Alexander Gonzalez. He was speaking about how concerned he was about the low number of black Americans attending college and how important it was to get a higher education. At the time, I thought it was so cool for a president of a university to take time out of his weekend on a Sunday to speak about college.

I saw him two additional times after that and by the third Super Sunday service, it finally hit me. It was no longer about how “cool” it was that he was speaking to us, it was a message about going to college. I felt like President Gonzalez was speaking directly to me. He was telling me that it was time to finally apply to college and that with a degree I’d be able to make a larger impact in the world through social work. After hearing about the power of a college education at Super Sunday, I signed up for community college, hoping to transfer to Sac State after receiving my associate’s degree. I actually ended up getting four associate’s degrees! The four degrees I received from American River College—psychology, liberal arts, general education and social science—laid the foundation I needed to start my path toward social work.

After seeing President Gonzalez speak at the church and learning about Sac State’s success in preparing the best social workers, I knew this university was the right fit. Going to a university with nearly 30,000 students was incredibly overwhelming. I didn’t know anyone and I really didn’t know how to jump into the university culture. Fortunately, the faculty, staff and students welcomed me with open arms, were incredibly supportive and encouraging, and got me involved in the school and community. I came to the realization that I didn’t want to just pass through school just to get a degree; I wanted school to pass through me! I started giving back to the community by volunteering for different outreach organizations and attending workshops geared toward assisting underserved communities.

I graduated last May from Sac State and have accepted a fellowship to pursue my master’s and doctoral degrees in Illinois. My goal is to work in pediatrics with a special interest in children with autism and developmental disability. My life has changed so much since seeing President Gonzalez first speak that day at the church.  Super Sunday gave me that extra push I needed to obtain that degree that has since taken me to great heights.

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  • Lourdes Shahamiri

    This very inspiring story proves that with outreach activities and support from university personnel the dreams of students such as Ms. Kamalu’s can be accomplished. It is nice to see that she plans to pursue a doctoral degree.

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