South teacher gains US citizenship

Laura Turner, Staff Writer

Mamadee Sesay, an assistant teacher in South’s special education recently gained United States citizenship.  As a refugee, Sesay gained United States citizenship and an education that has altered the course of his life.  He spoke to an audience of students and teachers.  Later in the week, he gave the paper a more in-depth interview about education and his experiences.

Sesay fled Liberia fleeing  this tribal conflict.  Conflict in Liberia has lasted over 15 years.  There are sixteen tribes represented in Liberia.  Tribal conflicts between the Krah and Mano-Gio tribes have resulted in the deaths of over 250,000 people.

Sesay traveled on foot with 68 others through the Gola Forest into Sierra Leone.  For over a week, the party walked for up to ten hours a day.

The group came across death every day.  Bodies of shot victims of the tribal conflicts frequented their path. “There was no guarantee that we were going to survive,” he explained.  The only man that was killed on the journey died because laborious travel was too much.  He described what kept him going as “the courage to stay alive… We just wanted to be educated.”

Sesay lived in Waterloo Refugee Camp outside of Freetown, Sierra Leone.  He was one of five men who went to the United Nations asking for financial support to go to college.  After being granted the Albert Einstein scholarship and enrolling in Njalah University, Sesay began working on his bachelor’s degree in education economics.   On the day he graduated, rebels from Liberia attacked the capital of Sierra Leone.  Sesay was forced to flee once again to Guinea.

From there Sesay began his pursuit of United States citizenship.  The path to US citizenship is a difficult one.  Sesay first had to be granted political asylum.   Political asylum is granted to refugees who would likely be imprisoned or killed living in their home country.  Upon receiving a letter stating the government’s “intent to deny” Sesay’s request for political asylum, Sesay had to hire a lawyer.  After he was granted political asylum, Sesay moved to the US.

Political asylees must reside for a year in the United States before they can request a green card.  It took six to seven months for Sesay’s request to be granted.  From there, he had to wait five years to apply for citizenship.  Sesay had to study to gain the knowledge of US government and history that would determine whether or not he could be a citizen.

Sesay chose Minnesota as his final destination once in the US.  Minnesota has more Liberian people than any other state.

“When you’re back there all you hear about is Minnesota,” recalled Sesay.  Sesay received a Masters degree in nonprofit management and a certificate in economic development from Hamline University in St. Paul.  He is currently working on his ESL (English as a Second Language) teaching license.

Sesay expressed gratitude for every opportunity is confronted with.  “I at times believe that I shouldn’t be here.  Why should I get angry?  I shouldn’t be here, I just appreciate everything that comes my way.”