Commencement 2014: Motivated URI nursing student determined to make her mother proud

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Boston native, Cecilia Igwe-Kalu overcomes great challenge to earn degree at URI

KINGSTON, RI. – April 29, 2014 –Cecilia Igwe-Kalu holds the record in the 55-meter dash at Lincoln-Sudbury high school in Massachusetts.

“Hopefully it’s still there,” said Igwe-Kalu. During the past four years, she has been running a race of her own at the University of Rhode Island. Although she has had to scale some major hurdles to finish, she is approaching the finish line with grace.

Igwe-Kalu was born and raised in Boston with her three brothers and she loves her hometown. When asked about her favorite area in Boston, Igwe-Kalu said, “I like the Charles River area in Boston because it’s calm and relaxing. There’s a nice view and at nighttime you can see all the buildings. It’s just really nice.”

Family life and an opportunity to attend a suburban school system gave her strong foundations and had her ready for the college application process.

“I came to URI because I heard (nursing) was a great program and it was also a good distance from home, but still close enough to home. I could still drive home whenever I’d like,” said Igwe-Kalu.

That ability to get home would prove essential to Igwe-Kalu during her freshman year. While trying to keep up with her classes, she also was going home to be with her mom, who was suffering from breast cancer, who would die later that year.

“It was hard because she passed away during my freshmen year and that’s when it’s your time to get to know people. I just wanted to keep to myself and I wasn’t near family,” said Igwe-Kalu.

In her nursing major, the topic of cancer is unavoidable. “It’s hard every semester because we discuss cancer,” stated Igwe-Kalu. But the struggle has not dampened her enthusiasm for her major.

Ever since her mother’s death, Igwe-Kalu has done all she can to make her mother proud. “She was telling me to focus on my education and to make sure that I did well. I received all A’s my entire freshman year” said Igwe-Kalu.

She was also active in numerous organizations, including the Student Nursing Association, PINK Women, Uhuru Sasa, and the Nursing Ambassadors. She was the recipient of the University’s Douglas and Jennifer Cote Scholarship. She also went abroad to broaden her nursing experience.

“This past winter, I went on the Dominican Republic nursing trip for two weeks. That was an amazing experience and I recommend it for any nursing student. We went to the poor areas of the country, and provided care for people who did not have access to health care,” said Igwe-Kalu.

The nursing students worked in a compound where they passed out clothes, food, medicine and supplies that they had brought with them. And rather than having comfortable hotel accommodations, the students stayed in family homes. “I actually preferred that as opposed to a hotel because it made it a more of a personal experience,” said Igwe-Kalu.

She has also enjoyed her time in Rhode Island as a Rhody Ram. “I like everything about URI. The program and the people are really nice and I like that it’s a big campus. The atmosphere is nice too because everyone is really friendly here,” Igwe-Kalu said.

The finish line is in sight for Igwe-Kalu as far as college is concerned, with URI’s Commencement set for May 18. She will begin a new race once she has her degree.

“I am going into medical surgical nursing because I find it interesting, and it is the best place to start,” she said. “Hopefully I find a job in Boston even though that’s very hard because everyone wants to go to Boston. I’m going to get a job and maybe work a few more years. Then I want to get my master’s in nursing and become a nurse practitioner,” said Igwe-Kalu.

Even as she prepares to leave URI, her mother remains in her heart. “I’m glad I’m graduating, but I just wish she could be here for that,” explained Igwe-Kalu.

“I’m very proud of myself for getting through the four years and maintaining good grades with all the struggles I have had since my mom passed away. Because I’m the only girl in my family, I have had to step up a lot. I’m glad that I was able to get through it and that I’m going to graduate on time, just do what my mom asked me to do. Hopefully she’s happy,” said Igwe-Kalu.

This press release was written by Ashley Henry, a communications major interning in URI’s Marketing and Communications Department.

Pictured above

Senior, Cecilia Igwe-Kalu, poses in White Hall

Marketing & Communications photo by Michael Salerno Photography.