Kenyan immigrant inspires fellow students at graduation

As a child growing up in Kenya, Gardson Sigugu would have had a tough time imagining that he would one day be addressing his fellow students graduating from Crossroads Alternative High School’s west campus in Champlin on a frigid night in January.

Gardson Sigugu addresses fellow graduates from Crossroads Alternative High School’s west campus in Champlin Jan. 30. Submitted photo
Gardson Sigugu addresses fellow graduates from Crossroads Alternative High School’s west campus in Champlin Jan. 30. Submitted photo

“You have a future, though most of you probably felt like giving up at times, and I was one who did,” Sigugu said. But the young man who had emigrated just three years earlier wanted to be a positive example for his younger brothers and sisters.

His words were also a powerful example for the other 28 students who graduated Jan. 30 from a school that is designed for students ages 18 through 21 who, for various reasons, were not able to complete high school in the typical four years. The school serves students throughout Anoka-Hennepin School District.

Sigugu urged students to be grateful for what they have and not take things for granted. From parents they need food, shelter and clothing, he said. “You don’t need video games and $180 tennis shoes.”

He was grateful, he told them, because if he had remained in Kenya, he would not have graduated from high school. He recalled going home for lunch as a schoolboy in Kenya. But there was no lunch, only a cup of water. And when he returned to school in the afternoon, he wondered if there would be anything for supper. He was grateful his family had brought him to the United States.

“If you have something to do, do it right now. Don’t wait for tomorrow,” he said. “If you want to go to college, go.” He encouraged them, saying some students need two or three jobs to make it through college, but they can do it if they want it and if they manage their time well.

“Congratulations … this is just the beginning of your life!” he said.

Sen. John Hoffman, former Anoka-Hennepin School Board member, said the Crossroads students were living the vision of a school that would serve students who faced amazing challenges and turned them to wonderful successes.

“If you take a diverse group of students with collective strengths, everyone has the opportunity to succeed,” he said. “You have worked hard. You are ready for the next step with more confidence.”

He wished students success and perseverance and urged them to “go out into the world and inspire those you meet.”

Principal Nancy Chave introduced students’ advisors who introduced the students with whom they had worked during their time at Crossroads West, which is associated with Crossroads Alternative High School’s main campus in Coon Rapids. This is the west campus school’s second year serving only students 18 through 21 and its second graduation ceremony.

The graduation celebration was hosted by Champlin United Methodist Church, which serves as a “faith partner” for the school. Among other things, volunteers from the church also hosted a recognition breakfast earlier in the school year for students who were excelling academically.

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