Liberian students find success at BCTC
Harry Momo, 22, and Alplato Chukpue-Padmore, 22, do almost everything together. The two cousins grew up together in Monrovia, Liberia. During their two semesters as students at Bluegrass Community and Technical College, they were involved in the Phi Theta Kappa honors society, worked at Presidential Student Ambassadors, and founded the African Students Association at BCTC, all while being enrolled full-time and maintaining their grades.
Kehla Vance, Assistant Director of Admissions for International Student Services, recommended the two students for the Presidential Student Ambassador program an honorary group of students selected to represent the college at special events on campus and in the community and worked closely with them throughout their time at BCTC.
"Alplato and Harry made an impact both on our hearts and on our office as soon as they arrived. They were joyful in spite of negative circumstances and their passion for their education was undeniable. As the deadline to apply for the Presidential Student Ambassador Program approached, I could not think of two better candidates than Harry and Alplato. Not only have the two represented BCTC with passion and integrity, they have also set an outstanding example of what it means to be a successful BCTC student, to both domestic and international students alike," Vance said.
The cousins are enrolling in Kentucky State University for the Spring 2016 semester where they have earned BLINKS transfer scholarships through BCTC to attend KSU. Momo is majoring in biology and plans to become a doctor of internal medicine, while Chukpue-Padmore is majoring in public administration and plans to become a lawyer.
While the two have thrived at BCTC, their Kentucky journey did not have an easy beginning. They arrived in the United State in January of 2015 while their home country of Liberia was embroiled in the ebola epidemic. They lost people they knew to the disease both before they left and after they arrived and started their classes.
The ebola outbreak was not the reason the cousins came to America, but the timing was fortuitous. They took classes in their fields, Alplato in public administration and Harry in biology, for several years at the University of Liberia before moving to the United States to continue their studies.
"The first preference for Liberians pursuing higher education is America," said Chukpue-Padmore.
They chose to attend BCTC because of an uncle who lives in Wilmore, Ky. They have been staying with him and commuting during their time at BCTC.
The three-week quarantine procedure after entering the country delayed the start of the semester for Harry.
"I was a week and a half late starting classes. After my first class I stayed and talked to the professor for 30 minutes and had a quiz the next day," he said.
The first thing I tell any student is to ask questions and don't make assumptions. We have a saying in Africa: the stranger who asks questions will never miss the way. Since Momo started from behind, he says asking questions were essential for him being able to catch up and understand what was going on.
Alplato arrived a few weeks earlier and was out of quarantine before the start of classes.
The two hit the ground running and started making friends and getting involved in campus life. Last semester they went from being involved to getting others involved in campus life with the founding of the African Students Association.
"For international students, this is our home away from home. We wanted to get the African students together and involved in student life," said Chukpue-Padmore.
While the association has only been going for one semester so far, they have had several meetings to determine the setup and get the association off the ground, and get-togethers and programs for the African students at BCTC. The association sought advice and guidance from the African Student Association at the University of Kentucky and has had a few joint events together.
Chukpue-Padmore is the current president of the association and will be handing off leadership to the vice-president, but plans to stay in contact with the association. He said that he and Harry have already met with the president of KSU and talked about their desire to start an African Students Association at that institution as well.
Even thought the cousins are moving on to KSU, they don't like it when people say they are leaving BCTC.
"We aren't leaving BCTC, we are a part of this institution," said Chukpue-Padmore. "We will always be a part of BCTC."
Momo and Chukpue-Padmore plan to be a ongoing resource for the African Student Association and to continue to volunteer at events.
BCTC provided an atmosphere where we could achieve what we dream about. We had high expectations (about higher education in America) and those expectations were met, said Chukpue-Padmore.
While the two are excited about their educational opportunities in the United States, they both plan to return to Liberia after they complete their education.
"One of our main motivations is the people back home," said Momo. "We are fortunate to have this opportunity and want to go back and make an impact in our community."