Engoma Fataki portrait


I was born in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. When I was one year old, my parents took me and fled our home country at the onset of a civil war. For the next 17 years, I lived in refugee camps across four countries. I started my life as a refugee in the country of Tanzania, then Zambia and Malawi, finally settling in Mozambique for 14 of the 17 years. During our time as refugees, my family and I suffered many traumas. We went hungry. We had to walk miles for water. Life was difficult. Life was full of impossibilities.

My family finally moved to the United States in 2014, briefly landing in Columbia, Missouri before moving to Kansas City, Missouri. When I first arrived in the United States, I hardly spoke any English. As the oldest of nine children, I did everything I could to learn the English language in order to advocate for my parents and younger siblings. I read and explained mail to my parents and attended all types of appointments to ensure my family understood the information given to them.

This struggle is not unique to my family. The language barrier is a challenge that immigrants to the United States face every day. I have always had the goal of helping others in one way or another, but through my experiences in life, I have discovered that this is an area where I can truly have a positive impact on others. After I graduated from Missouri Western with a degree in political science – international studies, I took a job with the Kansas City Public Schools as a Swahili Family and Community Liaison serving immigrant families in the area. Whether they needed a translator on a phone call with the district or needed assistance registering their children for the first time, I was able to assist many families during my one year in that position.

Now I am serving as a Legal Coordinator for Erickson Immigration Group in Washington, D.C. I am able to advocate for individuals who are in the process of coming to the United States or those who are already here with documentation that is going to expire. For me, there is no better feeling than knowing that someone is in a better place in their life because I helped in some way. I hope to be able to advocate for others on a much larger scale in the future, whether in the State Department, the United Nations, or at a nonprofit.

No matter where I go in life, I believe that Missouri Western has helped set me up for success in many ways. I first visited campus with one of my high school classes. My thoughts quickly changed from the impossible to the possible when I heard the University’s slogan at the time – Everything is Possible. During our tour, we were shown a video featuring the campus and students with the song “Hall of Fame” by The Script in the background. As I watched the students interacting with each other, enjoying their time at college and listened to the lyrics, “you can be the greatest; you can be the best,” it just hit me. I wanted to turn my impossibilities into possibilities, and the only place for me to do that was Missouri Western.

The moment I arrived at Missouri Western as a college student, I knew I wanted to get involved. Throughout my four years at the university I was able to serve as the Student Government Association President, serve on Western Activities Council (WAC), be involved with the Soccer Club and serve as a Griffon Mentor in Admissions. My heavy involvement in so many student organizations helped me obtain the real-world skills that I will take with me the rest of my career and life.

As a student leader, I learned how to communicate with various students and employees across campus, and I came to understand that while everyone has different communication styles, when it comes down to it, we are all human. We can come together regardless of our differences to resolve an issue, to share a wonderful moment. Those are the skills that will help make me successful in life.

I have so much pride in being a Griffon. Being a Griffon means that I am a part of a community that cares about other people. It’s a community made up of people local to St. Joseph, and people from across the world. After we graduate, we still carry that community with us. It creates a mindset that it isn’t just about me. It’s about others, about our community, about expanding generosity to everyone and finding ways to make someone else’s day a little bit better.

I am extremely blessed to have been surrounded by amazing faculty and staff during my time at Missouri Western. I am so grateful for all the help they have given me along the way. To look back at where I started when I first came to Missouri Western as a refugee with minimal English and writing skills, to where I am today as a United States citizen and Missouri Western graduate, there is a huge difference. The faculty and staff at Missouri Western need to know that they impacted my life, and they are impacting the lives of so many other students each and every day, and for that I am grateful.