SHERMAN, TX -- Graduating from any college or university in the United States is never an easy feat. For international students, that task is multiplied. Sunday, Austin College graduated the class of 2008, and said good-bye to a student who has made his way around the world to complete a dream and help those back at home.
On a bright sunny day on the Austin College campus, thousands of hours of studying and hard work came to an end. As the cliché goes, graduation brings about the start of a new life; especially for Davy Axel Nze Akoue. The native of the African country of Gabon said good bye to a place he says he will never forget.
"I get an education and an opportunity to better myself, but at the same time my friend in America get to know about my culture and we get to bridge the gap of stereotypes people have," says Akoue, known as “Axel.”
After graduating high school, Axel received a scholarship from his native land to study in the United States. After spending a month in Chicago, trying to master the English language, he headed where a lot students from Gabon go to study and continue their English studies: Grayson County College.
"Grayson was still giving me a chance to work on my English and to still take some basic classes so after spending 3 semesters at Grayson, I transferred to Austin College.”
The transition from a place he had grown to love, to new surroundings, wasn't easy.
"You belong to where you grow up and you leave friends and family, food, everything you have ever known and then you have to go to a new place where you don’t know anybody and you have to emotionally start over."
His mother, who speaks little English, was just as concerned.
"I was worried but I was joyful at the same time, worried because he was an only child but at the same time happy because I know he was going by himself to get a higher education,” she says.
He fought through the challenges, earning a degree in international studies and a minor in communication. Axel says he will now use those skills at the United Nations. He plans to work with the ‘Nothing but Nets’ campaign to help combat malaria in African countries, with the help of the NBA.
It’s that opportunity to give back that makes him special, at least to his mom.
"I am not surprised because I always knew he would do great things with God's blessing," she says.
At the graduation ceremony, Axel and his senior classmates presented the university with a check for $51,000. The funds will go to a scholarship for international students.