From Mali to SUU: Nouman Kante

Despite facing adversity and overcoming challenges, Nouman Kante has shown that anything is possible with hard work. The hard decision he has made, led him to Southern Utah University and continues to push him forward.

Kante was born in Keleya Mali, a small village in Africa. His family were farmers, who could not read or write due to the lack of education in his village.

From a young age, Kante knew he wanted to go to school and receive an education.

“My family stayed in my village, and I decided to move away,” said Kante. “It was not an easy decision but sometimes that’s okay in life to make a tough decision. I had big dreams for myself and I am not afraid.”

When Kante was only seven years old, he moved to Ouelessebougou, approximately 50 kilometers away from his family where he could go to school.

“I did not know anyone in Ouelessebougou, so I lived on my own,” said Kante. “I was just going around doing simple tasks for people so that way they could feed me. I was a street boy…I was homeless, frustrated and hungry.”

During this point is his life, Kante met a man named Yeah Samake, who would change the course of his life.

Three separate times Kante saw Samake driving to his house and would open up the gate so Samake wouldn’t have to get out of his car.

On the third instance, Samake, who turned out to be the former mayor of Ouelessebougou, asked him, “Who are you?”  which Kante describes as a big “turning point in his life.” Kante explained to Samake that he wanted to go to school to learn how to read and write.

After talking to Kante, Samake saw potential in him and wanted to help. Earlier in Samake’s life someone gave him an opportunity and now Samake wanted to pay it forward. Soon after the conversation took place, Samake invited Kante to live with him.

“Yeah Samake became a mentor in my life. He started me on the road to discover who I am,” said Kante.

Kante road to SUU started years ago when someone believed in Samake.

Samake received a degree in literature in Mali but the government didn’t have a job for him, so he went to Ouelessebougou to teach young people English. It was at this time that the Utah Allies came to the city, brought books and helped build a school.

Samake already knew English and was able to communicate with the Utah Allies. The Utah Allies offered to help Samake come to America and continue his education at BYU in the early 2000’s.

Then when some of Samake’s friends from America came to Mail to visit, Kante was their personal guide and showed them around. Kante was then given the opportunity of a lifetime- to come to America and go to school.

In 2012, at the young age of 14, Kante came to America knowing very little English, but was up for the challenge.

“It was difficult to learn but I was passionate about learning English because I wanted to get involved with as many things as I could,” said Kante. “Even though I didn’t speak english very well at that time, people still embraced me and who I am and I will never forget that, so I thank them so very much.”

After attending Wasatch Academy, in Mount Pleasant for four years, Kante once again reached another turning point in his life – where to go to college.

After looking at a variety of universities in Utah, he knew SUU was the place for him.

“Academically, SUU is in the top. I like small-sized classes. I liked that people care. I looked at something beyond the degree, beyond the GPA, beyond the class grade. I am looking at personal growth…That is the type of community that young people can be successful in,” said Kante.

Coming from Mali, Kante experienced diversity daily. So when deciding what university to attend, Kante wanted university to attend, Kante wanted to chose a school that embraced and celebrated diversity among its students.

“When I applied to SUU I looked at the diversity and their mission statement. This campus has different types of people, race and gender. Out of the all the schools in Utah, SUU was the school that got my attention.”

Now as a junior studying Business Management and minor in Philosophy, Kante has taken every opportunity to get involved.

He has worked at the Leavitt Center as a fellow, is a member of Sigma Chi, Coordinator of Involvement for International Ambassadors and as a Resident Assistant for on campus housing.

Kante has enjoyed his time at SUU and looks forward to his senior year. After graduation he can’t wait to make a difference in people’s lives and help them achieve their own dreams.

“I want to empower young people to believe in themselves, in their potential, in their dreams and goals in life. You must believe it first for yourself then people will believe in you. You [have to] start. Because if you don’t start you can’t tell someone, ‘Oh this is my dream, I don’t believe it but I want you to believe in it.’ No, that doesn’t work. This is my dream, I believe in it. Here it is.”

This summer, Kante has the opportunity to visit Mali for the third time since coming to America. He can’t wait to have his mom’s home-cooked food and see his family. Going back home helps him see how far he has come and how far he has to go.

“When I go back to, I talk to people. I find out what their passions and goals. I think that is really important. When I know that, I can ask myself, ‘what can I do about that?’ Whether the kids want to go to school, be a police officer or run for office or help the youth. If I can do something about that, I will do so.”

Kante says he is thankful for the education he has received at SUU and for all the people that have helped him to get where he is today.

“We are in good hands. I am grateful to be a part of this university and community. I cannot wait to see what the future will bring. Great stuff is happening and greater stuff will happen.”

Story by: Cassidy Harmon 
Photo Courtesy of: Nouman Kante