Khady Windsouri first came to St. Cloud in January. Her first thought?
“Oh, I cannot stay here. This is too hard for me.”
Khady came to the US in 2016, leaving her family and 2-year-old son in Burkina Faso, Africa, for the opportunity that America held. With her first language French, she came with a 25% understanding of speaking English and only knowing one person. Add the cold of a Minnesota winter on top of that, and it’s understandable that her first thought would be to leave.
But four years later, Khady is still here, even after a brief move to Houston, Texas. The community, relationships, and her desire to learn and succeed have been the motivation to stay in America to complete her degrees, gain experience in the business world, and plan to return to Burkina Faso to start and own her own business.
Khady started at SCTCC after her move back to St. Cloud from Texas. Texas turned out to be too big, but before she left Minnesota, she had befriended some local nuns, who told her she could always come “home” if Texas didn’t work out. She did, and it was a good choice.
Currently, Khady is a member of TRIO and works in the TRIO office along with holding the Treasurer position in the SCTCC Student Senate. TRIO is one of the programs that really helped her open up and start to meet people, which helped her feel comfortable asking more questions.
“Everything I do, I think about it. I ask questions. I’m an everyday fighter,” Khady explains.
She’s met a lot of people, many of whom stop by the TRIO office and talk to her, which surprises her every time. People tell her she’s welcoming, nice, and that she listens. This has been a great learning experience for her and she’s tucking it away to use when she owns her own business and is the boss.
“I can be this kind of person who connects with a lot of people,” she says. “My employees won’t have fear to come talk to me, and I can be this kind of person who will be always open to my employees. I have learned about people and how to deal with certain people.”
TRIO also helped her navigate her developmental classes, which she needed to move forward with her degrees. With English as a second language, she knew that this was a something she’d need to overcome. Khady noted that it was hard to find a job with a lack of English-speaking skills; she was working in a kitchen for a while, but she knew that wasn’t for her.
“I don’t grow like that. I don’t learn like that.”
The good news is that now she rates her English speaking at about 75%. There are times when she could go a few days without speaking French, but she does admit that the more comfortable she is with a person, the better her English is.
Khady’s perseverance has paid off: she’ll be graduating in spring 2020 with her AA degree and then fall 2020 with a second degree in Business Management with a focus on finance. Then she’ll transfer to St. Cloud State University to get a bachelor’s degree in Information Systems.
She misses her family, but she does travel every summer for two-to-three weeks to see them.
“I traveled so far from home and left my family and son,” she says. Her son turns seven in March, and while she would love to have him with her, the process for him to come to the US is long. He lives with her parents, and the opportunity and experience she’s gaining in America will help him and the rest of her family in the long run. She noticed that African fast food has the potential to be a niche market, so her degrees and leadership experience are all moving toward owning a business like that.
Leadership is one of Khady’s strong suits, and a recent scholarship she received really made that clear. She applied for and received a LeadMN scholarship, which “rewards emerging leaders for their community service and academic achievement.”
“The primary criteria for Khady’s scholarship were the ‘talents, hard work, and creativity of immigrants of all kinds.’ You could not find a better definition of what Khady is all about,” maintains Steve Nusbaum, TRIO advisor. “She is also a student leader who inspires many of our other students to work hard in reaching their goals. We’re very fortunate to have her as a part of our TRIO family.”
Receiving the scholarship was a big deal, and Khady attended a presentation ceremony to accept it and network with others who were there. Her essay that she wrote when applying for the scholarship really speaks to her philosophy on leadership:
A leader must not put himself higher than others. He is a leader because there is a team. He must give the benefit of the doubt to his team. He must take their point of view into consideration and try to analyze them and come with something better which can be good for all his team members. A single person cannot save an organization but a team [can]… We must be great leaders by our behaviors, passion, compassion, care.
When asked if coming to America was worth it, taking into consideration leaving her family and the Minnesota winters, her immediate answer is yes. The experience she’s already gotten, the opportunity available, and the future she has planned all are a testament to her perseverance and wanting to learn.
“I came here to be on the top,” Khady explains. “I will always ask. And I will always use what they give me to be successful. So being in America is really great for me. I’m still learning, and I will learn, learn, learn.”
Then she laughs. “I don’t like taxes though.”