Commencement 2013: URI Providence student from war-torn Liberia achieves dream of college in America

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Providence resident to study public policy in graduate school

KINGSTON, R.I. — April 10, 2013 — Emmanuel Logan lost his mother on a spring day nearly two decades ago. Logan watched in horror as the rebels dragged Sarah from her house in Liberia for speaking out against the recruitment of child soldiers to fight in the country’s civil war.

Logan never saw her again. Six months later, he and his eight siblings discovered that she had been raped in her prison cell and brutally murdered. His life changed in an instant. He had dreamed of becoming a doctor, but now set his sights on advocating for social justice.

This spring, the 32-year-old Providence resident will graduate with a Bachelor of Interdisciplinary Studies with a major in Business Institutions from the University of Rhode Island’s Alan Shawn Feinstein College of Continuing Education. He hopes to study public policy at graduate school in the fall, possibly at URI’s Kingston campus.

“With hard work and focus you can achieve anything you want in life,” said Logan. “When I came here, I had no phone, no car, no place to live. The only thing that kept me going was hope and faith and the kindness of Americans.”

Logan has come a long way from those frightening years when civil war from 1989 to 2005 sparked kidnappings, torture, and gruesome killings, often with a machete. Logan’s mother spoke out against guerilla leader Charles Taylor and his recruitment of Liberian boys to rape and kill. She paid for her courage with her life.

After her murder, Logan took up her cause as a youth minister but was threatened and fled the country, first to the Ivory Coast and then to Ghana. His final stop was Providence, where he arrived in 2007 to live with other Liberian refugees. He received political asylum and eventually became a permanent resident.

Right away, he got to work. He found a job as an aide at a group home in Massachusetts for adults with learning disabilities, working his way up to assistant program manager. He routinely puts in 80 hours a week and hasn’t had a vacation in five years.

Three years ago, he decided he wanted more out of life and went back to college. With some credits accumulated as a student at the University of Liberia, he enrolled as a junior at the Providence campus.

He chose the BIS program, which is designed for people like Logan who want to keep working while earning a bachelor’s degree. He took out college loans to pay tuition. The variety of classes was also appealing – accounting, marketing, civil rights in America, environmental studies. He’s grateful that he could collaborate with his professors to tailor the program to meet his needs.

“This is a young man who in the face of adversity broke down barriers that would have prevented others from moving forward,” said Gayla Gazerro, financial aid and scholarship advisor at the Feinstein Providence campus. “We can expect great accomplishments from Emmanuel in the future.”

Anne Hubbard, coordinator of the BIS program, was also moved by Logan: “I was impressed with his commitment to the topics covered in a course I taught him and with his interest in using this information to make positive changes in the world.”

Logan, who is married with young children, would like to get his doctorate and return to Liberia one day to help those less fortunate, especially women, who are treated like second-class citizens. “Women are regarded as the property of men,” he said. “They are abused on a daily basis. These are the things still crippling the Liberian society.”

His homeland is never far from his thoughts. He’s been collecting old textbooks from URI students to ship to Liberia, where it’s common for many university students to share one book. His program is called “Each One Give One Book.”

“In Liberia the government doesn’t care about its people,” he said. “There is no aid for college, no access to education and no running water. The government kills its own people. There is so much in this country, so much to appreciate. My life has turned around. My mother would be proud of me – very proud.”

Pictured above: Emmanuel Logan, a 2013 graduate of URI’s Alan Shawn Feinstein College of Continuing Education who fled war-torn Liberia and achieved his dream of graduating from college in America. Photo by Michael Salerno Photography