Kean University does a Humans-of-New-York-like series on Instagram where the stories of students and faculty are shared every week. Last semester, Kwame Eni was one of those students who was able to share his story of how he became the person he is today.
Kwame, who completed his criminal justice degree in December of 2016, is graduating in May 2017. Before becoming a student at Kean University,Kwame's life was heading in another direction.
At the age of 19 Kwame was arrested and the judge told him two things: "I had to go to school or I had to go to work full-time. And at the time I was working at Walgreens and I didn’t want to work there full-time," Kwame said.
Kwame grew up with two sisters and a mother who raised the three of them. He is the middle child and the first to receive a bachelor's degree in his family. He first attended Middlesex County College where he was able to receive a scholarship because he was a part of the Rotaract Club in high school. After transferring to Kean University, he became a member of the Rotaract Club on campus and eventually became president.
"Joining the Rotaract Club was one of the greatest decisions I've made," Kwame commented. "Kean University Rotaract Club made me become more responsible and taught me to become self-reliant, as well as how to work with other people to accomplish a goal."
For those who don't know, the Rotaract Club, as Kwame puts it, is a "community-service-based club."
One of the projects the club does includes going to Newark Penn Station to conduct the program Homeless not Hopeless. Members of the program hand out bagged lunches that include encouraging notes, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, a snack and a drink.
"As president I had to come up with creative service events every month and convince new members that community service is actually fun and rewarding,"Kwame said. "Becoming president proved to me that if you work hard and stay focused, nothing can stop you."
During his time in college he filled up his days with not only classes and being a part of Rotaract Club, but also mentoring young boys. Kwame became a mentor at Passport to Manhood, where he mentored boys ages 11 to 14.
"I was responsible for teaching young men to behave like leaders and to act responsibly," Kwame said. "We spoke about a variety of topics like puberty, college, sports, fashion and current events."
Passport to Manhood also included workshops where he was able to teach poetry and conflict resolution.
Passport to Manhood, Kwame said, is where someone can show young kids that they have options beyond the point of graduating from high school. And that is why he became a mentor.
"I liked that I was able to have a direct impact on their lives, and I liked how it required me to lead by example," he explained. "I couldn't tell the boys one thing and [then] act another way, so I had to make sure that I stayed out of trouble as well."
Kwame is one of the many people that show the world that one terrible mistake does not mean the person is a lost case. Kwame proves a person can turn his or her life around. Now, he is someone people can look up to.
Right now, he is working at Bonnie Brae Home for Boys as a childcare counselor for at-risk youth. He will be attending graduate school this fall, working towards a Master's in Social Work.
His goal in life "is to spread positivity. Believe in yourself and you will accomplish anything."