Learning in the Journey: Stories about Taking the Bold First Steps to Find Your Destiny
“PGCC has been a tremendous blessing to me. When I started here I had to learn how to speak English, but I prayed and committed myself to working hard in all of my classes and soon students were asking me for help…I couldn’t believe it!” –Eliane Lakam, 2016 PGCC Graduate
It’s astonishing to me how taking a simple step forward in our journey can impact our entire life’s path, and take us on a ride we couldn’t possibly design were we left to our own devices. In Paolo Coehlo’s novel, The Alchemist, a king speaking to the character Santiago tells him that, "When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it."
While a powerful statement, it is also thought-provoking and reminded me that everything we send out to the universe inevitably returns to us—positive or negative. And in moving that sentiment further along in my mind, it caused me to think about a young woman I recently had the good fortune of becoming acquainted. She is the epitome of a seeker, and her resourceful nature has helped her uncover an entire world of opportunities that have made her academic path nothing short of remarkable.
As a young woman in a new country, Eliane Lakam made a singular and very adult decision that would chart an exhilarating course for success. Despite being faced with adversities that would cause most of us to wave a white flag, Eliane persevered. Actually, that’s putting it too lightly. Eliane endured. And the extraordinary [laundry list of] things she has accomplished as a student, a woman, a sister, and a leader are badges she can wear proudly…knowing no one can take anything else away from her.
Preparing for takeoff!
After chatting with the soon-to-be PGCC graduate, I felt inspired and moved beyond words, and I knew that I had to share her story. Awards, honors, accolades and racking up degrees is impressive (Eliane will be receiving 3 Associate degrees and 2 certificates), but what makes Eliane’s story so fascinating is her mindset. She lives in a “big picture” state of being, and her acute cognizance of other peoples’ feelings and personal journeys almost makes her super-human. She’s fearless but incredibly caring, and fully understands the power of positive thinking. It literally saved her life, after all. Eliane is unique, extremely bright, and fun to talk to—but mainly, she’s just very down to earth and pretty much just wants to live ON PURPOSE. And that makes her very cool!
Here's her story:
J: Where are you originally from?
E: I'm from Central Africa
J: What did you want to be when you grew up?
E: A firefighter. I wanted to save lives. I recently contacted the Capitol Heights Volunteer Fire department and will be joining their team. There is still that little girl inside me.
J: Was studying law, public policy, paralegal studies, etc. always part of your game plan?
E: Not as a child. My interests in these fields arose over the years and really stemmed from my passion for civic engagement and advocacy. I'm deeply interested in understanding law as it relates to the promotion and protection of human rights at any level.
J: Who influenced you as a child, teenager or even now as an adult, to strive and work hard to achieve your dreams?
E: Three strong women have influenced me greatly. My mother, Mother Theresa, and Oprah Winfrey. Their love for others and their strong work ethics inspired me. They never gave up despite the multiple challenges they faced. They have nurtured and shaped me to become the woman I am today, and I learned a great deal from the example they exhibited.
J: As a bright, enterprising young lady, why did you choose a community college as part of your academic journey?
E: I was not only looking for an affordable education, I was also looking for a place to call home. Prince George's Community College exceeded my expectations by being committed to fostering a campus environment that is welcoming while providing students with an outstanding education. I'm very excited about pathways!
J: What was your major, favorite course(s) and/or professor while here at PGCC?
E: I must confess that I have had many favorite professors throughout my journey at PGCC, and I feel blessed to have had the opportunity to learn from people who were experts in their fields. I'm very grateful to all of them, however, Legal Analysis, Writing, and Research was certainly one subject that fascinated me the most. It definitely provided me with skills that are not confined to the legal field.
J: How has having a diverse education (PGCC to a four-year institution) influenced or impacted you as a professional woman?
E: It allowed me to see things through different lenses, to discover others, and to learn from them. Our society is very pluralistic and learning in a diverse setting has allowed me to become culturally competent while fostering my ability to effectively work with people who are different from me.
J: What advice would you give your fifteen-year-old self OR a student contemplating college? Same question, but an adult desiring to go back to school?
E: To my younger self I will say don't give up on your dream and don't be afraid to say no sometimes. You are certainly going to be hurt. Forgive and move on. If you fall, please get up and walk. Never stop trying. Failure sets the path for success and what makes you a better person is the way you react to it. Keep your head up. Everything is going to be okay someday.
To an adult desiring to go back to school I would say, “Just do it”! Your past should not discourage you. It should empower you. You are ahead because you desire to pursue your education. You can do it. Push yourself, pray, and stay focused.
J: Is there an accomplishment, in particular, you are especially proud of as a PGCC grad?
E.I started a scholarship at the college called the Lakam Leadership Scholarship to help, give hope and support to others. I wanted to create something tangible that could make others feel empowered.
J: Where do you see yourself in 5 years? 10 years?
E: Done with part of my studies. Helping others somewhere.
J: What is your favorite food(s)? Places to travel? Hobbies?
E: I really enjoy roasted potatoes and asparagus. After Haiti, Nicaragua is my favorite destination. I would like to go to a mission trip there.
J: Last or best book you have read?
E: The Mind of Mahatma Gandhi
Editor’s note – As of the date this article was written, I’m elated and proud to report that Eliane will join her fellow classmates and graduate from PGCC on May 26 with a 4.00 and the highest honors. She has been accepted and will be attending Georgetown University in the fall, and will pursue interests in Justice and Peace, Human rights, and politics.
List of Awards and Scholarships:
Tyrone F. Green Memorial Outstanding Student Leader of the Year Award, 2016
Newman Civic Fellowship Award, 2016
Award honors inspiring college student leaders who have demonstrated an investment in finding solutions for challenges facing communities throughout the country.
Who’s Who Among Students in American Universities and Colleges, 2016
Adele R. Zimmerman Memorial Outstanding Volunteer of the Year Award, 2015
Dean’s List, Prince George’s Community College; All semesters
Citation in Honors
Outstanding Pre-law student, Prince George’s Community College, 2014-2015
C.W Langford Scholarship
W. Stanley Machen Scholarship
The Promise Scholarship