From the Congo to GGC in pursuit of a dream

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Patrick and Cedrick Mukinay standing in front of library
Patrick, ‘15, and Cedrick, ‘17, Mukinay

Cedrick Dizala Mukinay has much in common with most students at Georgia Gwinnett. He is a transfer student. He works on campus to help pay his bills. He lives off-campus with family to keep costs down.

And like many GGC students, this sophomore is ambitious and determined to make a difference with his life.

Unlike most Grizzlies, he has come from halfway around the world to pursue his dreams.

A native of The Democratic Republic of Congo, located in central-western Africa, Mukinay has witnessed first-hand the ravages of infectious disease.

“My calling is to help people and communities in need overcome illness and live healthy lives. I want to treat and prevent infectious diseases, especially in the most affected parts of the world,” he said. “For example, infectious disease on the African continent is at a crisis level. According to the World Health Organization, a child dies of malaria every 30 seconds in Africa. These kinds of numbers are what drive me to study and do well so I can become a doctor.”

Woman in elaborate African headdress carrying childThroughout his elementary and secondary school years in the Congo, he dreamed about coming to the U.S. to pursue a medical degree, as he believed that the U.S. is the best place in the world to obtain a higher education.

“Unfortunately, tuition is expensive and my parents could only afford to send one of their five children to the U.S. to study,” Mukinay said. His older brother, Patrick Kanyingu Mukinay, who had similar goals, was the one who came to the U.S. for college, earning a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from the University of North Carolina-Charlotte.

Meanwhile, Mukinay attended a medical school in the Congo for two years. While there, he took a chance on the Diversity Visa program.

Operated by the U.S. Department of State, the lottery is part of the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program. The Immigration and Nationality Act provides for immigrants from nations with historically low rates of immigration to the United States. A limited number of visas are available each year and the requirements for the program, established by law, are strict. Applicants must first apply to the program, and selection is by lottery.

About six months after his application, Mukinay was notified of his selection and instructed to pursue immigration procedures with the U.S. Embassy.

“Against the odds and to my great surprise, I was on my way to the U.S. to make my dreams come true,” he said.

After his arrival in the U.S., Mukinay and his brother both heard about GGC from a friend in the Atlanta community.

“We checked it out and we were really captivated by its philosophy and mission, especially its core values: leadership, service, creativity, and of course, scholarship,” he said.

The brothers enrolled at GGC as biology majors, and Mukinay immediately noticed key differences between the college and his Congolese university.

“According to the World Health Organization, a child dies of malaria every 30 seconds in Africa. These kinds of numbers are what drive me to study and do well so I can become a doctor.”

– Cedrick Mukinay, class of ‘17

“My experience at GGC corroborates my previously held perception of American academic opportunities. Its small class size and faculty-student ratio are some key reasons – among others – that made me believe I made the right choice in coming here. This is really significant for a person coming from a country where there are no more than 3,000 university professors for the whole country, and where classrooms are almost always overpopulated.”

Mukinay described being in an auditorium with more than 1,000 students during his first year of medical school.

“If you didn’t show up early for class, you might not find a seat, and you’d have to stand through the whole lecture,” he said. “What a contrast to GGC, where you get to talk to the professor one-on-one any time you want to – or even text them.”

Mukinay said he was even more surprised by the generous spirit of donors to the college and deeply appreciative of receiving the Elridge W. McMillan Regents Scholarship.

“My scholarship has made positive impacts in my academics. Besides knowing that I can count on GGC faculty to help me academically, I now know that there are generous people willing to financially help students complete their education.”

Mukinay had an opportunity to express his appreciation for such generosity when he was asked to speak on behalf of all GGC scholarship recipients at the GGC Foundation’s recent Scholarship Reception.

“Coming from a developing country where public elementary school is not free and where some private high schools are even more expensive than certain colleges, I am well aware of the importance and the significance of financial support when it comes to education expenses. I have personally known students who were forced to drop out of school because their parents could not afford tuition,” Mukinay said in his remarks. “In my country, fortunate people don’t often help those in need.”

Seven African Children

Mukinay’s brother graduated in May with a degree in biology with a concentration in cell biology and biotechnology, and plans to study public health in graduate school.

Mukinay remains focused on earning his bachelor’s degree in biology with a concentration in biochemistry. After that, he plans to go to medical school and pursue specialization in infectious disease so he can return to the Congo to bring medical care to its people.

“I am happy to be able to study at GGC because I believe the administration and the supporters of GGC believe as I do … that giving back and helping people is the most important thing you can do with your life,” said Mukinay.

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