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From Nigeria to Thomasville: Grad student finds calling at TU

When Powella Ebosa arrived in Thomasville in the fall of 2016, he had little money and a lot of faith. On May 5, 2018, he graduated from TU with a Master of Education Degree in Early Childhood Education. Ebosa credits his success to hard work, a lot of faith and the people who helped him along the way.

Back home in Legos, Nigeria, Ebosa was a behavioral therapist who worked with children to help them in school, at home, in social settings or wherever they were having issues.

“We didn’t just look at one aspect of the child, we looked at the whole child – social, educational, behavioral, all 360 degrees of the child,” he said. “Then we helped the child in whatever way he needed help.”

While he enjoyed the work, Ebosa wanted to do more to help children. He also wanted to travel. That’s when he decided to further his education by studying abroad.

The second child in a family of five children, Ebosa grew up in a rural village in Nigeria where his father was a farmer, hard work was greatly valued and money was scarce. Ebosa worked his way through college in Lagos to earn an undergraduate degree in psychology. Now it was time for him to further that education.

Ebosa said he chose the U.S. because of the reputation of its educational system. A friend mentioned that Georgia’s educational system was particularly outstanding. After searching the different graduate schools in Georgia, he found Thomas University.

Ebosa applied to the school and had a conversation with Remigio Padilla-Hernandez, a TU professor who also serves as the international student adviser.

“After talking to him, I knew that I wanted to come to Thomas University,” Ebosa said. “He was my main recruiter.”

The conversation was followed by an online face-to-face interview with Padilla-Hernandez and faculty from TU’s Division of Education. Not long after that, Ebosa was accepted as a graduate student. He secured his visa and made plans to travel to Thomasville.

When Ebosa told his father about his plans to study education at TU, his father encouraged Ebosa.

“He told me to work hard, put God first and always know where I’m from,” Ebosa said. “Every day I think about what he told me. He has always believed in me and encouraged me.”

Ebosa said when he arrived in the U.S., he had imagined the cities to all look like New York with its skyscrapers and multitude of people. While Thomasville had no skyscrapers, he came to embrace the city and the hospitality of its citizens.

“Powella is just a wonderful person,” said Dr. Gale Neal, a faculty member in TU’s Division of Education and Ebosa’s adviser. “He came to us from Lagos in Nigeria five semesters ago, joined our master's program, and became the graduate assistant in our office.  We all immediately liked him because his manners are impeccable and he is very genuine.  He treats everyone the same, with great respect and care.”

Ebosa has always valued hard work, but when he arrived he encountered financial struggles. He began by living in a TU residence hall but later moved into a less expensive apartment thanks to Wylie and Abbey Watt, who took him in much like an exchange student.

“They gave me a beautiful apartment and made me part of their family,” Ebosa said.

With no car, Ebosa walked everywhere that he needed to go. When one of his professors found out that he was walking from TU to a local elementary school for his field study, she gave him a bicycle to help out.

In addition to his studies, Ebosa volunteered with the Boys and Girls Club, participated in the Peace Jam program with TU, worked as a graduate assistant in the office of the Division of Education and worked in the Hawk’s Nest, TU’s on-campus café.

During his time in Thomasville, Ebosa has met a number of people who have helped him on his adventure.

“Powella has endured financial hardship like a champ, always full of faith that God would see him through,” Neal said. “He joined the fellowship of a local church in Thomasville, and made friends there, just as easily as he made them at TU.”

Being accepted at TU, dealing with financial obstacles, meeting people who valued him and wanted to help – Ebosa said he believes this was all part of a divine plan.

“I think Thomasville is a really nice town,” Ebosa said. “I think God orchestrated my move here. I came here with almost nothing hoping to get a job while I studied. Now I’ve met this wonderful group of people who have become my main source of strength. Money can’t buy that. I feel God actually sent me here to bless me with these people. Every time I had trouble, there was always someone there to walk through it with me. I think that’s a blessing.

“I would like to use this opportunity to thank the following people and families for standing by me and supporting me immensely through my TU journey:  Ms. Ginger Council and the entire Council family for supporting and hosting me at their homes; my professors, Dr. Susan Hagood, Dr. Gale Neal, Dr. Susan Lynn, for believing in me and supporting me in numerous ways; the Watt and Allen families for opening their doors to accommodate a stranger like me, for taking me in as a member of their beautiful family, and never for one day made me felt unwelcomed; Colin and Stephanie Dougherty, for their advice and words of encouragement;  Mr. Larry Green and Terry Powell of First Baptist Church for their financial gift; my current boss Dr. Joe Garmon, for believing in my dreams; and lastly I would like to thank all my classmates and Southwest Georgia friends, especially, Mr. Will Wise for supporting me in one way or the other.”

Now Ebosa works at the South Georgia Autism Center in Thomasville as a behavioral tutor. His desire to work with children began when he helped care for his younger siblings after his mother’s death. Ebosa especially enjoys working with children who have special needs.


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