When Margaret Gathesha was twelve-years-old, she moved with her family to South Bend from Kenya. “My parents wanted us to have a better education and more opportunities,” she said. “Moving to the U.S. was very hard,” she commented. “It was like a new world.”
She arrived in the U.S. speaking only Swahili, so she was challenged to learn English as a student at Brown Intermediate Center. School was different, too. In Kenya, class sizes were much larger, and students were expected to be quiet. In the U.S., classes were smaller and students were more vocal and they were expected to engage with teachers in class—a difficult challenge when she did not speak the language. Nevertheless, she soon thrived at the middle school. “The teachers at Brown cared about their students,” she explained. “They were very helpful.”
Staff at the Robinson Community Learning Center, especially Youth Development Program Director Velshonna Lucke, helped Margaret adapt to life in the U.S., too. “Velshonna is my role model,” Margaret said. “She really challenged me to learn English and be a good student.”
Margaret’s family also has high expectations for her. “My parents take education very seriously,” she commented. “I was expected to go to college.” After she was admitted to IU South Bend, Margaret attended the Leadership Academy—a summer program for 21st Century Scholars and minorities that prepares the incoming freshmen for the rigors of college academics. “It really helped me know what to expect,” she said. “I feel like it prepared me well to make the transition to college.”
In addition to her core academic courses, Margaret is also taking an African dance class at IU South Bend, and she’s preparing for a performance in January at Notre Dame. “I want to stay in touch with my heritage,” she explained.
When she completes her undergraduate degree, she plans to pursue her master’s in Physical Therapy. “I want to be a physical therapist because I want to help people of all ages, “she said. “I want to make a difference in people’s lives, and help them get back to the activities they enjoy.”
In just a few short years, Margaret has embraced her life in the U.S. and as a college student at IU South Bend. “I love it here,” she said. “The education, the opportunities, the friendly atmosphere. I never want to take it for granted.”