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Empowering Children Through Education

Nadia Kaze obtained a bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education at the University of Mount Olive, in 2013. She’s been working in early childhood education since 2009 and is currently ECMHSP’s Quality Assurance Program Monitor. Please read this special phone interview with her in honor of Black History Month.

Where did you grow up?

I was born and raised in Burundi, a very small country in East Africa. My native language is Kirundi, and French is the country’s official language. Due to the political unrest and violence in Burundi, I had to move to Ivory Coast. There was a civil war two years later, forcing us to move to Ghana. This was a challenging experience because Ghana’s official language is English, a language I was not fluent in. The school principal wanted to hold me back a couple of grades due to the language barrier. I insisted on working hard to excel in my ESL classes. I not only learned English quickly, but also graduated high school in 2004 with honors.

What encouraged you to join East Coast Migrant Head Start Project and how do you contribute to the organization?

Thinking of our diverse families and what they go through. Despite the many challenges they run into, they are so resilient. I wanted to support them because I see the potential in them and believe in the mission at ECMHSP with all my heart. I had eight years of Head Start experience when I joined ECMHSP in 2016 as a Quality Assurance Program Monitor. I had just finished my Master’s degree in Education with a focus on Early Childhood Intervention and Family Support from the University of North Carolina. My Head Start experience started in 2009, when I worked for Telamon as a Preschool Assistant Teacher. A year later, extra funding became available for a home-based program to support mainly stay at home parents, so I began working as a Home Visitor. Having a close connection to our parents made this an opportunity I could not turn down. Since I had previously volunteered as an interpreter with the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI) Raleigh, I was able to help secure a partnership to enroll those families. They came from Burundi, Guatemala, Peru, Colombia, Congo, Iran, and Iraq.

What does Black History Month mean to you?

As you know I was not born here in the USA, hence, the first time I heard February was Black History Month, I didn’t quite know what it encompassed. I researched about it and reached out to some of my African American close friends to learn more from them. This is a great time to celebrate and remember important people and events in the history of the African Diaspora. This month is important as I always learn something new every year about it. I recently learned that more countries around the world celebrate Black History Month including Ireland, the Netherlands, and the UK, which is observed in October.

Is there a black woman from history who has inspired you?

The American activist Rosa Parks. She invigorated the struggle for racial equality. She was a trailblazer, a courageous woman who refused to give up her seat on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama. I think it was deserving that the United States Congress called her the “First Lady of Civil Rights” and “Mother of the Freedom Movement”. This inspires me to stand for what is right and serve others no matter what others might say or think.

What piece of advice would you give to young people today?

Sometimes, we are drawn to focus on our challenges and barriers in front of us, but I encourage you to look ahead, see all the possibilities. Continue working hard, I promise, you will not be disappointed. No matter where you come from you or the color of your skin or your disabilities, YOU can persevere. I leave you with my favorite quote by Nelson Mandela:

“Education is the great engine of personal development. It is through education that the daughter of a peasant can become a doctor, that the son of a mine worker can become the head of the mine, that a child of farm workers can become the president of a great nation. It is what we make out of what we have, not what we are given, that separates one person from another.”

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