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Alumna Ayodele Kanyako Blossoms at Mercer En Route to Career as Social Worker


Ayodele Kanyako credits MCCC with laying the foundation for her satisfying career in social work.

While at Mercer, Kanyako, second row, fourth from left, was a member of Beta Psi, the Community College National Honor Society in Pscyhology.

Kankoyo, second from left, returned to Mercer with four other alumni in 2014 for an informational panel discussion about transfer to four-year colleges. She completed her bachelor's degree from Temple University that spring.

West Windsor, N.J. – On the east coast of Africa, in the country of Tanzania, Mercer County Community College (MCCC) alumna Ayodele Kanyako ’12 (A.A., Liberal Arts/Social Sciences) is doing what she loves best – making a difference for people in need.

Employed by the U.S. government in the health sector, Kanyako says her work is a dream fulfilled. “I have always been passionate about helping vulnerable populations.”

Kanyako says the years she spent at Mercer helped her get there. “In my current job, I am speaking to large groups of people and engaging with families to improve their lives. I also write a lot of reports. The skills I learned at Mercer – time management, leadership, problem-solving, critical thinking, oral and written communication – are essential to my work.”

Originally from Sierra Leone, Kanyako had the opportunity to come to the United States in 2009. After moving to Pennsylvania, she got a position as an administrative specialist at MCCC and her road to a rewarding future began.

Already working on campus, Kanyako decided to enroll in classes. “Mercer’s curriculum fit well with my goal to become a social worker,” she said. “And, as a part-time employee, I was able to finish work and attend a class, or attend a class and then start work.”

Despite the juggling act of commuting, working and attending college, Kanyako was highly focused on academics and found numerous staff members who were ready to support her at every turn.

Faculty were front and center. She points to course after course – Public Speaking, English Composition, Marriage and the Family, Introduction to Poetry, among many others – as classes that not only added to her knowledge base, but also enhanced her skills as a speaker, writer, and thinker.

She recalls Professor of English Fran Davidson (now professor emerita), who taught an Honors poetry course, as one of the faculty members who motivated her to be her best. “She would look at a rough draft of my paper and say, ‘This is good, but I know that you can do better.’  She gave me the push to do better and I received an A,” Kanyako said. “I am still in touch with her to this day.”

Sociology faculty member Denise Ingram played a key role as Kanyako’s advisor. “She assisted me in preparing a degree plan and made sure I took the courses I needed to graduate on time. With her help, almost all of my courses transferred to Temple University,” Kanyako said.

Also helpful was the staff in the Transfer Services office. “Director Laurene Jones and counselor Jen Cook assisted me throughout the process and offered suggestions on how to be successful. They told me about Instant Decision Day at Temple for students who had completed a specific number of courses with a high GPA. I met the criteria and received instant acceptance without having to go through the lengthy process of applying and waiting for a response,” she said.

Kanyako earned her associate degree in December 2011, graduating with honors – but not before enduring a major test of her resilience. She had already registered for classes and purchased her textbooks when Hurricane Irene hit the East Coast that August, forcing a mandatory evacuation. She had to leave everything behind – including her precious textbooks.

With her books destroyed, Kanyako wondered how she would make it through the semester. “I am grateful to God for giving me the fortitude to continue with my studies,” she said, explaining that she was able to use textbooks available at the MCCC library.

She remains forever grateful for the patience and support of the library staff. “They became used to me because I spent a lot of time there. I can recall that when it was closing time, the security and staff would say, ‘Ten more minutes to closing’ and I would still be there until there were just five minutes to go before packing up.”

She remembers the kindness of her professors during that time as well. “They were very compassionate. Even with the added hurricane challenge, I completed that semester with four As.”

Kanyako was equally successful at Temple, following the same blueprint that worked for her at Mercer – hard work and regular visits to her academic advisor to ensure she was on track. She earned her Bachelor of Social Work degree (Cum Laude) in May 2014.

The next order of business was graduate school. Kanyako enrolled at the University of Pittsburgh. While earning her a master’s degree in International Development and a Graduate Certificate in African Studies, she worked with children with behavioral disorders at several behavioral health organizations. She graduated in April 2016. 

Then it was time to pursue a full-time career. “I searched for opportunities where I could use my knowledge and experience at the macro level,” she said. In her current job, she focuses on disease prevention. “I love my job. I love helping people and hope to do so for many years to come.”

Kanyako's advice to current students is simple and sage: “Stay focused and do not allow anything to distract you from achieving your academic goals. The climate at Mercer is positive. The faculty and staff are available and willing to help you. If you need help, ask for it, and you will undoubtedly receive it like I did.”

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