Against All Odds
Pierre Nzuah '14
International student Pierre Nzuah '14 has overcome insurmountable odds to fulfill his dream of studying in the United States.
Nzuah grew up on a farm in the African nation of Cameroon with 18 siblings. With his parents unable to pay for his education, he began working to raise money for middle and high school tuition.
After graduation, Nzuah knew the only way to expand his knowledge was to move away from his family and attend a one-year technical school in another part of the country. He studied data processing and worked at a cyber café, but when the owners couldn’t pay him, he decided to research possibilities to study abroad.
Although Nzuah grew up without access to electricity or phones, he was immediately interested in SUNY Canton’s bachelor’s degree in Electrical Technology. Luckily, he had an uncle who was willing to loan him money for tuition, but it took nearly two years and hundreds of dollars to obtain his visa and complete his application.
He finally arrived at SUNY Canton in January 2011 and made the President’s List his first semester. He joined the First Presbyterian Church of Canton and served as a peer mentor for other students.
Then he received terrible news that his uncle was bankrupt. Thanks to donations from community members, the College and former SUNY Potsdam French Professor Annette R. Plante, Nzuah was able to continue his studies.
“I am very grateful to Ms. Plante and others in the community who have helped me stay in school,” Nzuah said. “I am also thankful to my roommate, who also helped me a lot.”
“This has been a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me,” he said. “I would not trade it for anything.”
After graduation, Pierre attended Clarkson University and now works as a Substation Engineer at TRC Engineers, Inc. in Liverpool, NY. He said at some point he wants to teach children in Cameroon and pay forward the kindness he has been shown by the Canton community.
“Teaching is in my blood,” he said. “I want to share my knowledge with kids who are from where I grew up.”