|Belco Bocoum '07 (College of Arts and Sciences)
At Home in the World
Belco Bocoum '07 knows the importance of having a home, and the pain and shame of losing one.
In her junior year of high school, Ms. Bocoum, her mother and one of her two younger brothers lost their Bronx apartment when rent payments fell short, as a result of her father’s sudden return to Africa.
The family moved into a shelter and for months shuttled among "countless" temporary apartments. At one point, the family was placed near Kennedy Airport, while Ms. Bocoum commuted to school in the Bronx.
She hid her situation from friends and teachers.
"I didn’t tell anyone in high school," she said. "It got to the point that I was so embarrassed, I felt like I deserved it."
Born in Mali and raised largely in Ghana, Ms. Bocoum came to the U.S. in 1995 for a chance at a better education. She was “passionate” about school, and fearful that losing her home would disqualify her from the privilege of a free high school education. So, for a year, she pretended she had a home.
By her senior year, the family had secured a permanent residence. By then, Ms. Bocoum had grown closer to her mother and gained a new perspective.
"It was a very important experience," she said. "[It taught me] how not to judge people. . . . You never know what’s going on at home. You don’t know if they have a home."
Ms. Bocoum chose Adelphi because it was close to her home. She has lived on campus, but is still able to see and help take care of her now four-year-old sister.
Ms. Bocoum admits she initially had another college in mind as a top choice, but has since changed her mind about Adelphi. "If I had known then what I know now, it would have been my first choice. The teachers, the people, everything has been very fulfilling."
An international studies major, Ms. Bocoum has gained a greater understanding of other cultures through her courses. "Pain is not limited to one specific race, one specific gender or culture," she said.
Ms. Bocoum plans to work for a year before returning to graduate school to study humanitarian issues, specifically involving women and development.
By Bonnie Eissner