When Florence Kiambe walked across the stage to receive her associate’s degree in Liberal Arts at North Shore Community College’s recent 50th Commencement, she was following in the footsteps of six of her children, all NSCC alumni who encouraged their mother to join them in gaining an education.
Today all seven Kiambes are gainfully employed and thriving, a true testament to the commitment, dedication and perseverance of the family who came to this country 16 years ago to escape political persecution in the Congo. Theirs is the story of the American dream fulfilled by immigrants who choose to work hard and do whatever is necessary to achieve their goals.
“I did not want to leave my country, but I was also made to feel as a widow, I didn’t count in society. America gave me my identity back and my happiness,” Florence said. She came to Lynn through Catholic Charities after she was widowed, not knowing any English. “My kids have given me the motivation to pursue my education. I said, `Why not me?’ I told them they had to go to school, I should too.”
Florence began her education journey in 2000 studying ESL, starting college level coursework in 2005, where she maintained a 3.3 GPA. A family crisis forced a break from 2006 to 2009, but return she did. She graduated with a 3.27 GPA despite overcoming many obstacles.
The new graduate has been working in the allied health field. “It’s a little late for nursing, but I’d like to work in a laboratory or in health care, so I am going to keep going. If you have an opportunity presented to you, why would you not take it?” she asks. While attending NSCC, Florence worked with severely disabled adults at Hogan Regional Center.
“It’s my time now. My kids are older, have good jobs and are married with their own kids. Now is my time for myself,” Florence said. One of her sons works at Harvard University, and others have degrees in engineering, computer science, biology and one is retired from the Navy.” And another has returned to NSCC to take additional courses….always a Kiambe in residence!
In addition to working and going to college, Florence is active in the community with her church and has helped hundreds of people follow in her footsteps of settling in America and leading good lives.