Liberian native Barnabas Kawreh has been telling friends about his upcoming graduation from the Community College of Rhode Island. They have responded in a similar fashion.
“Everyone has been saying, ‘Wow, man. I can’t believe it,’” Kawreh said. “They say I talk different and write different now. They are so excited for me.”
Kawreh, who came to the United States in 2012, will graduate with a degree in General Studies. His accomplishments often cause him to pause and reflect on the months he spent in Monrovia, Liberia, waiting for his opportunity to come to America.
Kawreh had planned to move to the United States for years. His wife immigrated to Providence to join one of the largest Liberian communities in the country. He waited a year for his paperwork to make its way through the U.S. Embassy.
“When she called me and told me I could go, I was very much excited because I wanted to reconnect with my wife, and I’m coming from Africa so I was very happy to come to the No. 1 country in the world,” Kawreh said.
While he waited for his paperwork to be approved, Kawreh researched educational and career opportunities. In January 2014 he visited CCRI’s Liston Campus in Providence and enrolled soon after.
“I felt special because I had been to college in Africa where we don’t have financial aid and we don’t have student loans,” he said. “I saw it as a huge, huge opportunity.”
He was thrilled by the CCRI community’s warm reception.
“Students would come up and say, ‘Hey, Barnabas, tell me about where you’re from,’ and they would want to talk about Africa,” he said.
As Kawreh’s confidence grew, he began to excel in his studies. His instructors helped him polish his English reading and writing skills and challenged him to think critically.
“If I were to walk out of this place without giving credit to CCRI, I was going to be regretful,” he said. “When I came here, the student population accepted me.”
While at CCRI Kawreh has worked in home care in Massachusetts and served in the ministry at the Christ Center of Praise in Providence. He is an accomplished gospel singer and musician whose music has garnered several awards. He and his wife raised two boys while also caring for three nephews.
He never thought about leaving school, he said.
“My wife keeps telling me that I can do this. Even my mom came for a visit from Liberia and was telling me that I can do this,” he said.
Kawreh doesn’t complain about being busy. Instead, he embraces the opportunities he never had in his native Liberia. This is a message he often shares with family.
“I moved here. I made a life here. I have a huge family back in Africa who calls me and says how proud they are,” he said. “I always encourage my family to succeed.”
He will study nursing at the University of Rhode Island this fall and simultaneously will pursue a bachelor’s degree in biblical studies at Colorado Christian University.
He enjoys caring for people, and his nursing studies will be an extension of that desire to help others, he said. His interest in biblical studies is also driven by that desire.
Kawreh refers to CCRI as his extended family, especially Ephraim Soe, a Liberian native and Providence resident he connected with during a geology class.
“It feels good to graduate with him, man,” said Soe, who is also graduating this year. They plan to have a community celebration to mark the occasion.
“I like to joke that he is the president of CCRI,” Soe said.
Kawreh said he is grateful to friends, instructors and classmates who supported him.
“I will forever be thankful to God for the CCRI family, and I am very much excited and proud to become an alum,” he said.