Growing up in the hills of Kenya, Clare Nyaanga began an unexpected journey. She endured many hardships, not the least of which was a mother she says never provided an ounce of encouragement. “In one instance, when I was in fifth grade, my younger brother and I brought our end of semester grades home,” says Clare. “I knew I could get ‘a praise and thank you’ from her because that semester I had improved my performance from an average student to more than average. In fact, my performance was even better than my brother’s.
“To my dismay, she looked at mine and dismissed me, but hugged my brother and told him how excellent of a student he was. At that time, I felt useless. I felt unappreciated, I felt I was nobody. However, deep within me, I knew I was strong, able, and worthy, but I couldn’t reconcile what I was feeling within and the reality that surrounded me. I struggled to finish high school with a C average, and decided never to give up in life.”
Still, adversity continued. Despite her youth, Clare had to undergo surgery to replace all her heart valves. She says she eventually arrived at ECPI University at one of the lowest moments of her life, having tried to earn a nursing degree at three different schools.
Working with an advisor, Clare decided she might be better suited for the Cyber and Network Security program. She looked inward and found the strength to move forward with faith and optimism. “I made a decision that failure was not an option and I will never be held down by my mother’s words and thoughts anymore,” says Clare. “I liberated myself from all the negativity and said to myself, ‘my destiny is in my hands.’’’
With the help and support of faculty, staff, and fellow students, Clare has succeeded beyond expectation, punctuating her bachelor’s degree with a 3.82 GPA. What’s more, she has completed her studies with perfect attendance, as a member of Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society, the Dean’s list, and, just recently, she earned her Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) professional certification.
“Clare is a tenacious learner,” says Mike Taylor, Raleigh Campus Cyber and Network Security Program Director. “Anything that is not understood provokes an immediate action plan on her part to master it. Her backstory might suggest a timid personality and there is a degree of endearing shyness, but I think it is part of what makes her such a sensitive and caring person. She has such a positive influence. Students who have fewer challenges look at Clare and consider their own efforts with more realism. She has that quality of ‘grit’ that is so needed in an aggressive academic program.”
Clare’s advice to new students? “If you can dream it, you can achieve it. It’s a journey to be traveled with resilience. It’s a journey to be traveled with tenacity. It’s a journey to be traveled with faith. It’s a journey to be traveled with hope. It’s a journey, not a destination! If a girl from the remote slopes of Kisii, Kenya, Africa, can do it, then you can do it. At ECPI, you are in good hands.”