The Brightside: One student’s inspiring journey
MARYLAND – A student in Maryland is sharing his story about moving to America when he was just four years old, becoming a United States citizen, and now working toward his graduate studies while owning his own business.
“I was young when I moved here, so most of it honestly I don’t remember the transition,” Akanni Salako said.
Akanni is a third year graduate student at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore who moved to America from Nigeria when he was four years old. Since then, he’s graduated from college, started his own business on the Eastern Shore, and is now working toward a graduate-level degree. But to understand how he got there, you have to understand some of the challenges he faced along the way. Namely, not being a United States citizen.
“It always felt like there was something looming over my head, even I remember being young and wanting to apply for certain jobs that my friends were applying for, and I couldn’t because you had to be a U.S. citizen to apply for them,” he said.
Akanni says some of those challenges impacted him in smaller ways, in things that many citizens don’t give a second thought to.
“It kind of set me back a bit, and then things like driving, I didn’t start driving until my senior year of college, so stuff like that really set me back,” he explained.
But Akanni says he worked hard, graduated from Virginia Union University, then moved on to UMES to enroll in their doctor of physical therapy program. Then, on January 5th of this year, he became a United States citizen.
“I think everything happened for a reason, the timing of how everything played out, it made me who I am today and made me learn patience,” he said.
With that test under his belt, he’s now working hard in the classroom and in labs, working toward a future where he can help his patients. But he says his studies aren’t a piece of cake.
“It’s a challenge being here, but I enjoy it, because the staff are very helpful, it helps that all your classmates are going through it at the same time as you, so you have help along the way,” he explained.
Akanni says he also owns his own personal training business called Salako Fitness, and once he graduates he hopes to combine his degree and his love for fitness and help people feel more comfortable in their bodies. In the meantime, when asked what his message was for other people working hard toward citizenship, a college degree, or both, this is what he said:
“Find your purpose, find what drives you, find what makes you happy.”