An Oklahoma City University graduate student originally from Nigeria has several reasons to celebrate this week. On Saturday, he earned his master's degree in business administration and at a ceremony on Mother's Day, he'll get his law degree.
But Damond Isiaka, 33, will also be celebrating the organization that played a key role in his success — The Education and Employment Ministry (TEEM), which helped lead him away from the self-destructive path he was on as a teenager.
Isiaka is among the TEEM graduates who will share their stories Tuesday at TEEM's annual luncheon to highlight the nonprofit organization's mission and raise money.
Isiaka moved from Nigeria to Oklahoma with his family as a child and eventually fell into the wrong crowd, said Sarah Blaney, TEEM's director of development. His story as a teenager nearly two decades ago includes trouble with shoplifting, vandalizing, trying drugs and picking fights, all as he dealt with feelings of being uprooted, abandoned and angry, according to biographical information provided by TEEM.
“I'm not proud of any of those things but it is where I came from,” Isiaka said in a phone interview Thursday as he studied for a round of final exams.
He entered the TEEM program around 1999 when a church member directed him to the nonprofit organization that helps adults ages 18 and over facing homelessness, financial poverty and “poverty of their souls,” as Blaney phrases the feeling of worthlessness that people often feel.
The program, which offers education, job training and placement and social services, helped Isiaka realize that he mattered.
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