Caroline Wanga knows what it feels like to not fit in.
When she came to Roseville from Kenya at age 10, few of her schoolmates looked like her and none of them spoke with the kind of accent she had. “As soon as I opened my mouth to say something, everyone knew I was different,” she recalls.
It was lonely at first, but by the time she graduated from a more diverse Edison High School in Minneapolis in 1995, she had developed the academic and social skills necessary for college.
Wanga’s life took an unexpected turn when she had a child while attending college. She decided to quit school and focus on raising her daughter. She worked for several years before realizing that she needed to go back and finish her degree if she was ever going to have a career.
With the help of the Single Parent Support System program at Texas College, a United Negro College Fund (UNCF) supported school, she was able to manage attending classes and taking care of her daughter. She completed four years of coursework in two and a half years and was Valedictorian of her graduating class — and graduated debt-free.
Wanga now works as a business user coordinator for Target Corporation in Minneapolis. She and many other UNCF recipients were on hand Saturday at Lake Nokomis for the 15th annual Walk for Education. They were joined by other supporters who want to raise awareness for the various programs and colleges the UNCF supports.
Wanga says that many students of color need this kind of support and programming that’s “outside the box” in order to succeed in college. Many African American students are more successful in historically black colleges because they share similar experiences with many other students instead of feeling isolated.
In this video, she and others at the Walk for Education talk about the importance of helping more African American students get prepared for and be successful in post-secondary programs.