Before she attended the Community College of Rhode Island, Mame Marye Mbaye, 24, of Providence had never taken a course in English.
The 2010 CCRI graduate moved to the United States from Senegal with her family in July 2007 so that she could receive a better education.
“My family values education very much,” Mbaye said. “Everything that my parents have in this life, no one gave it to them, they had to work for it.”
Both of Mbaye’s parents were educated in the United States and they wanted that same opportunity for their daughter, who enrolled at CCRI in Fall 2008.
“When I came over here, I met a friend who graduated from CCRI. She said at CCRI you can get your degree and it’s very affordable,” Mbaye said.
Mbaye’s limited English made school more challenging for her. “I thought, ‘I will speak the language and I don’t care about the mistakes I’m going to make, the only way to learn is by speaking with someone,’” she said. “It was very hard for me to adapt and cope with this American society knowing little English.”
Nonetheless, Mbaye persevered. “CCRI is a great school and if you have the dedication and determination, you will succeed,” she said.
Mbaye had taken college economics courses in Senegal, but none of those credits could be transferred to CCRI and she had to begin her General Business degree all over again.
She took classes full time and, although her family did not expect her to work, Mbaye took on extra responsibilities including a full-time shift at a factory in Woonsocket.
“I knew that I could go to work like my peers do,” Mbaye said. “They go to work, go to school and succeed at the same time, and that inspired me.”
Mbaye had a second job on campus tutoring fellow students in her native French, which she speaks along with Portuguese and Wolof, Senegal’s most common language.
She was also president of the CCRI International Club and led trips to Cambodia, Korea and Thailand during her tenure.
“I like to be involved in school activities,” Mbaye said. “There’s some students who only know the parking lot and the classroom, but that’s not for me.”
On top of these responsibilities, Mbaye assumed care of her younger sister when their parents had to return to Senegal this summer. Mbaye’s father is diabetic and lacks medical insurance in the United States, so he must return to Senegal frequently for treatment. Mbaye is planning to visit him there this summer.
Now that she is a CCRI graduate, Mbaye wants to continue in the world of higher education that she came to America to be a part of.
She has applied to Bryant University and Rhode Island College for finance.
“I plan to get experience with a company and then afterwards open my own business,” she said, something she never could have done without a college degree.
“I think education is a sleeping pill that makes dreams happen,” Mbaye said.