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Sudanese refugee and GCC student becomes United States citizen

By Philip Anselmo

From Genesee Community College:

Helen Keller once said: "Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved."

Moses Nhial, a refugee from Sudan and a full-time student at Genesee Community College, has experienced trials and suffering that most Americans can hardly imagine much less endure. Through it all, Moses has overcome adversity to become an ambitious young man, flourishing in an environment very unlike what he experienced growing up.

Genesee Community College is honored to announce Moses Nhial will take the Oath of Allegiance to become a United States citizen on February 12, 2009 in Rochester at the Federal Building. A College Citizenship celebration is planned for February 19 at 1:00 - 2:00 p.m. at the Batavia Campus in the Library Media Room. After much preparation for the Naturalization examination and a childhood replete of hardships, this occasion marks a pinnacle in this young man's life.

Born in 1987 in Sudan, Moses' childhood was filled with attacks on his village and constant fleeing to new refugee camps and other countries to avoid violence and brutality. As a youth, he took refuge in Ethiopia and Kenya with help from the United Nations. While in Ethiopia, he not only encountered the outbreak of another civil war, but his mother, the only family member with him at that time, died of an illness. Moses then relocated to northern Kenya and remained there until 2001, when he came to the United States.

Moses first applied to a refugee program in 1999 and through much diligence he was moved to the U.S. with help from Catholic Charities. He settled into Rochester with a foster family through the Catholic Family Center. He attended Thomas Jefferson High, where he flourished as a remarkable student. During his junior year at Thomas Jefferson, he was voted vice president of the student government and the following year he was voted president. Moses graduated high school in 2007 and started Genesee Community College in 2008.

Moses is now 21 and is no longer with the regional foster program. He lives in College Village, Genesee's campus housing facility, but he frequently visits his foster family for holidays and special events. He is studying General Studies with his favorite subject being History. He plans to one day work in International Relations. He has a work study position in the Library at Genesee and is enjoying his studies and time in College.

"I think my favorite part about Genesee Community College is that all the teachers and staff are really nice," Moses said.

Nina Warren, Director of Library Services at Genesee, first came to know Moses when he applied for a work study position. She and the library staff had learned some things about his life from his resume and through conversations during his first weeks of work. During the last week of October, he requested working Friday instead of his usual Thursday shift because he was scheduled to take the Naturalization tests to become a U.S. citizen.

"We not only willingly agreed, but we were awed by this young man's quiet progression in his life and his immense integrity," Ms. Warren said.

After he took the test and passed, the library staff talked at greater length and learned about Moses' challenging past and inspiring life story. There was also a new collective awareness about the long process required to become a U.S. citizen, and everyone waited with great anticipation for the official letter to arrive with news of Moses' final step-his Oath of Allegiance in downtown Rochester.

"We are all very excited and honored to have Moses working here in the library during this very significant event in his life," Ms. Warren said. "Everyone enjoys working with him because he's smart, calm, polite and enthusiastic about doing a wide range of tasks and projects for the library. His great smile is a perfect match for his patience that serves him well on either busy or slow days, or when assigned tasks by one or even five staff members."

Moses has adjusted to an American way of life and has taken the opportunity to share his life's tragic past with others. In November, he spoke at St. John Fisher College as part of a viewing and discussion for the documentary film, "The Lost Boys of Sudan."

A Citizenship Celebration is planned for February 19 at 1:00 p.m. in the Library Media Room at the Batavia campus. A pre-celebration Media Hour is scheduled from 12:00-1:00 p.m. for reporters or photographers interested in meeting and interviewing Moses. For further information, please contact Nina Warren at 585-343-005 x6256 or at

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