Graduating with Highest Honors and other accolades, Aye Kalle has always set high standards for herself. She arrived in the United States from Conakry, Guinea, in November 2015, seeking better educational opportunities. Aye, whose first language is French, started to learn English from her children and by taking noncredit English courses at the College. On May 7, she is receiving degrees in Architecture and Interior Design, and a proficiency certificate in Architectural Visualization. This fall, Aye will pursue a bachelor’s degree in Architecture at Drexel University.
“Design is something you can do for your community,” she said. She eventually hopes to resolve some of the challenges that buildings pose to residents and cities in Guinea.
“The buildings in my community are concrete, and they absorb heat. People have a hard time sleeping because it is so hot,” she said. New building materials and methods can reduce heat retainment and improve conditions for residents.
Her father, a former university professor, encouraged Aye, her five sisters and two brothers to excel in education for more opportunities in life. She competed with her siblings, especially her twin sister, and other students at being at the top of the class, and was always good at math. Aye wanted a career and a life that some thought of as nontraditional.
“Some people thought that school for women in my country was a waste of time. I don’t know if I would be here if not for my dad. I had a good foundation from my family,” said Aye.
Her road to graduation was not easy, especially with the pandemic. When she started credit classes in May 2018, she went to school full time and worked full time. Now a mother of four, she navigated her education and her children’s lessons from home during the pandemic, with one daughter having to start kindergarten online while she also attending classes.
“You have to have a goal for something, and you have to learn, not just study. I knew that in the end, I would be so proud of myself,” she said.
At the College, she became involved with Grady’s Community Garden, an initiative to help students learn how to grow their own healthy food, and food sovereignty initiatives to help food insecure students.
“It allowed me to give something back. Last year was critical. Seeing students get food for themselves and their families, it’s like I was connected with their hearts,” Aye said.
“Whatever your situation is, don’t give up on your education. Education will give you what you need in life. Your education is your key – never give up on your education.”
“I’m confident and proud of myself and my school. At the College, staff have time for their students. I have confidence in what I learned, and what I can do at Drexel.”