Florida A&M University (FAMU) College of Law student Soeurette Michel fled her native home of Haiti after her father’s assassination.
Ruth Korie, FAMU social work master’s student, moved to the United States from her home in Nigeria but was abandoned by her husband and left to raise her five children in an unfamiliar place.
What do these women have in common? They overcame tremendous obstacles and adversity to be successful. They will graduate at the 2009 FAMU spring commencement on May 3.
Something Michel knew she was “destined” for.
“I never considered my time in the U.S. difficult because I kept my eyes on the prize,” she said. “When I moved here, I knew exactly what I wanted to do and where I wanted to be.”
After the assassination of her father in 1990, Michel, 36, was urged by her family to leave her home of Haiti and migrate to Florida, in 2001.
Now, after eight years, Michel has earned her associate of science, bachelor of science, and master of science degrees and will obtain the juris doctorate degree on May 3, at the FAMU spring 2009 commencement.
As a young girl in the United States, Michel learned to speak English by reading children’s books and watching American cartoons. She eventually tested well enough in her understanding of the language to enroll at the community college level.
“Gosh it has been challenging,” she exclaimed. “When I finally started school it was a nightmare. One day my mother suggested that I read children books. I believed my first semester I almost had perfect scores in reading, writing, and speech.”
Michel attended Haiti State University, and the University of Central Florida for her undergraduate degree legal studies, certification of juvenile justice leadership and master’s of sciences in criminal justice.
Michel, an avid server to the community, has served as Student Bar Association Community Service Chair with the FAMU College of Law. She also founded and is the current president of the College of Law's Caribbean Law Students Association.
Michel plans on taking the bar exam in July and will enroll as a master’s of law student at St. Thomas University, Miami, Fla., in the fall.
Like Michel, Ruth found herself in a new home and alone, but made the decision to transform hope into reality.
After leaving their home in Nigeria and settling in Tallahassee, Fla., Korie was promised by her ex-husband that she would be able to start college after giving birth to five children. After having her fifth child, her first born was in second-grade, and she still had not enrolled at a college or university.
“People would tell me to wake up,” Korie said. “My ex-husband would say things like, ‘We’ve been in the U.S. for 10 years and you have no education. What do you think you’re going to do without an education?’ But I just tried to stay hopeful.”
Korie woke up one morning, four months after the birth of her fifth child, and her ex-husband was gone. He had relocated to Spain, where it was almost impossible to track his whereabouts.
“My major focus was my children,” Korie said. “I did not want them to miss out on school or become psychologically and emotionally distressed from growing up without a father. So I made sure I was there for them as much as possible.”
Korie eventually attended Tallahassee Community College and was admitted to the FAMU School of Nursing. Soon after, she decided the course load was too rigorous for her family life. She transferred to the FAMU College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Social Work, where she earned her bachelor’s of science in social work at FAMU.
Ironically, while Korie was in her last year as a master’s student, her son was in his first year in the School of Business and Industry.
“With the help of God, I am able to say sometimes that I have amazed myself,” she exclaimed. “I wanted to make sure my children did not fall into the cracks in society. I made a way to be successful. The most difficult aspect of my journey was the financial support, but I made it. I did it.”
Korie is now a qualified counselor and mentor for single parents and plans on one day starting her own child welfare agency.