The following are just a few of the thousands of Success Stories that exist thanks to your generous support of United Way of Southern Kentucky...
Kenna and Matthew Pendel’s son, Weston, is enrolled in United Way’s Imagination Library and LOVES seeing his new book in the mailbox every month! He always insists that Kenna and/or Matthew read the new book with him immediately – which they do! Receiving a new book, free of charge to the Pendels, has helped to grow Weston’s personal library, which he will enjoy for years to come. The Pendels believe that few activities are more important for children (and parents!) than reading, and the Imagination Library is providing kids with an invaluable foundation of excitement and love for books that will last their lifetimes. And for parents, the memories made while snuggled up with their precious children reading and discussing new stories are absolutely priceless.
The Pendels are so grateful to the Imagination Library for all they do to spark kids’ imaginations and provide them the lifelong gift of reading!
Six thousand, six hundred and twenty miles away is Nnamdi Igwe’s home, Nigeria – the land of his childhood. Nnamdi’s mother died when he was two years old, so he lived with his father and abusive stepmother Helen. He once said, “I remember the mornings she woke me up for school with the hard whip of a leather belt. I remember washing the ceramic plates, and when my tender hands accidentally broke one, she hit me continuously as I screamed and cried.”
On January 29, 2009, Nnamdi’s father died during a bladder surgery. “I remember that exact date..” he said. “It was the day I became a nine-year old orphan.” After his father’s funeral, Nnamdi moved in with his grandmother. Living with her, he transitioned from a life of abuse to one of financial struggle. Nnamdi lived with his grandmother in a rural part of Nigeria; therefore, they didn’t have much. His grandmother worked very hard on her farm, growing corn and yams; Nnamdi only ate lunch and dinner each day. Nnamdi’s grandmother walked three miles to sell her crops at the market to earn money to feed them. As a little boy, her sacrifices taught him to respect women because he saw strength, love, and perseverance in womanhood.
In 2011, Nnamdi was adopted by his aunt in America. He was so excited to come to America… until he had to say goodbye to his grandmother, the only true mother he knew. On June 23, 2013, Nnamdi stepped on American soil, anticipating a new beginning.
When Nnamdi moved to the United States in 2013, he knew some English but wasn’t very good in reading. He claimed to find his freshman English class quite difficult because he had to read the novel A Raisin in the Sun. Due to Nnamdi’s determination to overcome this reading obstacle, he spent 20 minutes every day reading books from any of the United Way funded agency, the Housing Authority Learning Center’s, two libraries. Three years later, Nnamdi is now excellent in reading. He earned a Distinguished score on his English End of Course Assessment (the highest possible score) and a 31 on the Reading section of the ACT.
Nnamdi comes to the Learning Center after school every day. He spends 3 hours there. After having lunch, Nnamdi goes straight to the library and reads any book or novel for twenty minutes. After the twenty minutes, Nnamdi goes into the Housing Authority computer lab to work on his homework. He uses the computer to type papers for his English classes, watch educational videos on the Khan Academy website over stoichiometry and thermodynamics for his Chemistry class, and many more. Nnamdi has used this program as a resource to stay on top of his school work and maintain excellent grades.
The Learning Center has provided Nnamdi with the resources to boost his reading skills and access the internet for online educational activities. This is a way by which the Learning Center through the help of United Way increases the literacy rate of international students in the Bowling Green community.
The Learning Center Staff has never seen anyone who has portrayed the strength of human spirit like Nnamdi has. Despite his tragic past, Nnamdi is a very cheerful student. He always greets everyone with a wide smile. Nnamdi continues to use the educational opportunities in this country provided by the program to be the best he can be personally, academically, and socially. This young man has a dream and the way he constantly works hard in the library and computer lab doing his school work shows me that he has every intention to accomplish that dream of success and greatness. Nnamdi refuses to let the tragedy of his past overshadow the awesome life waiting for him in the future.
Coming to America taught Nnamdi gratefulness. Not everyone gets to escape hardships, but he did. “I do not take things for granted anymore. I cherish the people around me because I can lose someone at any moment,” Nnamdi said. “Furthermore, it is a privilege to be receiving an American education because I know its worth,” he continued. “There were not as many educational resources such as libraries and computer labs in Nigeria as there are here in America. I intend to make the best use of the opportunities here to work very hard.”
This young man’s losses have sent him on the pursuit of happiness. On Monday mornings at school, when everyone looks so moody and tired, he is the vivacious one. If you were to have a conversation with him, he would be smiling the entire time; it is just who he is. He has chosen to leave his sorrows behind and move toward the brightness of life.
Nnamdi’s life in Nigeria has shaped his views on child abuse as an important social issue; no child should be subjected to any form of maltreatment. Also, his determination to make the best out of an American education constantly pushes him to achieve academic success.
Nnamdi plans to attend college and major in neuroscience and behavior after graduating high school. His top college choices include the University of Kentucky and Cornell University, an Ivy League institution in New York. After college, Nnamdi plans to enroll in medical school to study neuroscience, and later become a surgeon. Nnamdi is extremely capable of attaining this dream because he is very hard working and compassionate.
Every loss and instance of abuse Nnamdi has experienced has made him who he is today. Nnamdi says, “My experience has taught me the meaning of hope: knowing there’s something better waiting at the end of bitter situations. I did not think being happy was a possibility.”