Success Stories

Featured scholar

Student in graduation cap.

Amanda Shelton, a recent graduate of the WMU Seita Scholars Program.

A recent graduate of the Seita Scholars Program, Amanda Shelton is on her way to the University of Michigan this fall to earn her Master of Social Work degree from the prestigious institution.

Shelton, who graduated Western Michigan University as a Presidential Scholar in April, was featured recently in a story published by the Kalamazoo Gazette. Among her words of wisdom are the following, "You can do what you put your mind to."

First Seita Scholar graduate

Student and University President in graduation regalia.

Michael Fombang and President Dunn

Michael Fombang was just 12 years old and had been orphaned by war in the Democratic Republic of Congo when he fled the country in 2001 and began to work on freighters that traveled the world.

In 2005, when one of these ships docked in the Great Lakes Michael was detained by U.S. immigration authorities. He was classified as a stowaway and inadmissible to the U.S. except to pursue asylum status.

While his asylum petition was pending, Fombang, still a minor at 16, was placed in foster care in Grand Rapids, Michigan. His foster family welcomed him into their home and provided resources and encouragement.

Soon he learned English and earned his high school diploma. An aspiring doctor, he enrolled at Grand Rapids Community College, where his passion to succeed won over teachers and administrators. Sadly, Fombang's immigration status kept him from working or applying for student loans and scholarships, and medical school seemed a distant dream.

After waiting two years for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to act on his case, his foster family asked Justice for Our Neighbors for help in 2007. The JFON attorney made a successful legal argument that got the stowaway provision waived on humanitarian grounds and Michael qualified for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status. JFON then spent more than a year preparing his asylum package. Finally, in 2008, his SIJS application was approved and his status adjusted to legal permanent resident.

With this status Fombang could receive the financial aid and scholarships he needed to pursue his education. He later graduated from Western Michigan University with a bachelor’s degree in biomedical sciences. He hopes soon to pass the Medical College Admission Test and apply to medical school.

Fombang is so grateful to the many people who have helped him get to where he is today that now he feels it is his turn to give back.

From foster care to med school

Lori Higgins, Free Press Education Writer, Detroit Free Press (May 1, 2010)

Michael Fombang is grateful for the sponsor who paid for his education at Grand Valley Community College, and for a scholarship program at Western Michigan, which paid for his tuition and fees.

Now it's his turn, he says. He graduated [in May 2010] from WMU with a bachelor's degree in biomedical sciences. Within a year, Fombang said he hopes to pass the exam required to gain entry into medical school. He eventually wants to become a doctor.

"I have the need to help. I want to give back. I've been given a lot," Fombang said.

Fombang, 21, is the first graduate of WMU's Seita program. The program enrolls 74 students, most of them former foster care youths. About 20% are students like Fombang, who came to the U.S. as refugees.

Fombang is from the Democratic Republic of Congo, and he came to the U.S. five years ago, living with a foster family in Grand Rapids. He's heading to Chicago after graduation to take a summer job. He'll also be studying for the Medical College Admission Test. He'd like to become a surgeon, but says it's possible that exposure to other specialties in medical school might turn him on to a new medical passion.

One thing that won't change is his mission to give back.

"I don't want to disappoint."

Alumni Seita Scholars

  • Ashley Watkins, summer 2017
  • Amal Mohaned, summer 2017
  • Candace Martin, summer 2017
  • Olivia Williams, spring 2017
  • LaMesha Williams, spring 2017
  • Terry Toutant, spring 2017
  • Nicole Kozik-Ayers, spring 2017
  • Anteria Jefferson, spring 2017
  • Amber Finet, spring 2017
  • Brian Deel, spring 2017
  • Ashley Booker, spring 2017
  • Olatunji Bledsoe, spring 2017
  • Christopher White, fall 2016
  • Roy Patterson, fall 2016
  • Carla Lloyd, fall 2016
  • Jean-Claude Lambert, fall 2016
  • Katie Bowlin, fall 2016
  • Travis Anaple, fall 2016
  • Terence Brown, summer 2016
  • Kimberly Carrol, summer 2016
  • Ricco Culberson, summer 2016
  • Sifa Grace, summer 2016
  • Elizabeth Osburn-Marshall, summer 2016
  • Mariah Anderson, spring 2016
  • Samuel Banks, spring 2016
  • Ashley Benson, spring 2016
  • Emilie Haas, spring 2016
  • Sophia Jacobs, spring 2016
  • Ah Roi Marip, spring 2016
  • Julia Massey, spring 2016
  • Lyric Morgan, spring 2016
  • Ronnie Stephenson, spring 2016
  • Lenye Tynes, fall 2015
  • Danyetta Thomas, fall 2015
  • Melinda Smith, fall 2015
  • Noelle MacNeill, fall 2015
  • Desiree Endree, fall 2015
  • Tanekqua Drakeford, fall 2015
  • Amber DeVoe, fall 2015
  • Chanel Marshall-Sewell, summer 2015
  • Heritier Lingoso, summer 2015
  • Shawn Jones, summer 2015
  • Beatriz Jacinto-Ventura, summer 2015
  • Brittany Grimmett, summer 2015
  • Orlando Brown, summer 2015
  • Alic Alic, summer 2015
  • Tamara Toutant, spring 2015
  • Alexandria Miller, spring 2015
  • Akok Malek, spring 2015
  • Arreana Jackson, spring 2015
  • Leslie Hutchins, spring 2015
  • Bella Hounakey, spring 2015
  • Rashida Harrison, spring 2015
  • Taren Fales, spring 2015
  • Jessica Dwyer, spring 2015
  • Crystal Deel, spring 2015
  • Carlos Daniels, spring 2015
  • Cassandra Byrd, spring 2015
  • Ashanti Walker, fall 2014
  • Edith Munezero, fall 2014
  • Matthew McGuire, fall 2014
  • Michael Marotta, fall 2014
  • Kristin Hart, fall 2014
  • Benoit Hakizwuwizeye, fall 2014
  • Kenneth Barbera, fall 2014
  • Michele Zeman, summer 2014
  • Brittany Zeman, summer 2014
  • Courtney Maher, summer 2014
  • Brittiney Jones, summer 2014
  • Brittney Carter, summer 2014
  • Stefani Bendicion, summer 2014
  • Bianca Anderson, summer 2014
  • Amanda Shelton, spring 2014
  • Golda Lowure, spring 2014
  • Andromading Gon, spring 2014
  • Josephine Graham, spring 2014
  • Joel Frederick, spring 2014
  • LeOsha Evans, spring 2014
  • Sarah Dryden, spring 2014
  • Irene Burch-Travis, spring 2014
  • Ryan Ayers, spring 2014
  • Michael Reygaert, fall 2013
  • Angelica Riqueros, summer 2013
  • Lauren McAllister, summer 2013
  • Sherelle Bell-Brown, spring 2013
  • Martin Wichar, spring 2013
  • Abraham Mabil, spring 2013
  • Marida Little, spring 2013
  • Daniel Kuol, spring 2013
  • Myiesha Anderson-Moffet, spring 2013
  • Angela Bowman, spring 2013
  • Nia Williams, fall 2012
  • Philip Mach, fall 2012
  • Jillian Gecewicz, fall 2012
  • Raschard France, fall 2012
  • Cayla Roberts, summer 2012
  • Kristy Duda, summer 2012
  • Peter Anyak, summer 2012
  • Biel Thiec, spring 2012
  • Peter Ruei, spring 2012
  • Heather Nichols, spring 2012
  • Deng Chuol, spring 2012
  • Gai Tach, fall 2011
  • Jacob Ruei, fall 2011
  • Emmanuel Atem, summer 2011
  • Mercedes McLean, summer 2011
  • Amer Ajak, summer 2011
  • Isaac Meel, fall 2010
  • Paul Mawut, summer 2010
  • Michael Fombang, spring 2010