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A Journey of 5,000 Miles Before Crossing the Commencement Stage

May 23, 2024

Imagine uprooting your life and what it might be like to move to a different country—now, imagine what it might be like to move to a different continent. Imagine making connections with new people who come from the same country and being lucky enough that they become family. Imagine sharing a calling to the same vocation and enrolling in college together in the same major. Imagine this journey of 5,000 miles before walking across the stage together at commencement.

Students at SUNY Orange come from across the globe, and the journey of three friends from Ghana, Africa, was recently discovered by chance. While distributing student Commencement packages that included guest tickets, Beverly Byrne, senior secretary in the College’s Communications Office, noticed Beatrice and Linda sharing the last name, “Osei,” and asked if the pair were sisters. Beatrice Osei Kwanin explained this is a common surname where she is from, and that is how the story begins.

“I came to this country with my degree in engineering but found converting measurements from metric to be challenging and just wasn’t fond of it,” Kwanin explains. 

She moved to New York in 2008 and attended church in Nanuet at the World Outreach Ministries Worship Center. In time, Kwanin became a licensed practical nurse and says of the experience, “I liked helping people. I worked with the elderly and wanted to do more.”

Her goal remained to return to school someday to become a registered nurse. The opportunity came in 2020 when she enrolled for pre-requisite classes online at SUNY Orange during the pandemic.

Linda Osei Owusu, who moved from Ghana to London before arriving in Rockland County, said, “I met Beatrice at church, and we became sisters. We were together all the time and grew close enough that we were celebrating holidays together. We came from the same region in Ghana, share a common family name and our husbands were both deacons.”

Owusu briefly attended Rockland County Community College but soon put her education on hold to care for her family. She was a medical assistant for 12 years in a radiation oncology office.

In 2015, Karen NaaDedei Aryee and her husband moved to New York while he completed his residency. Although Aryee had a degree in biology, she always loved nursing and thought it would also complement her husband’s role as a doctor.

“I attended the same church as Beatrice and Linda,” said Aryee. “When we met, they were extremely warm, and supportive. We formed a strong bond and helped each other with our children. I became a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) before SUNY Orange.”

All three received their degrees in nursing from SUNY Orange on Thursday (May 23). Kwanin and Owusu attended the full-time evening program and Aryee full-time day program. A long way from West Africa, they shared a full student experience of balancing work, family responsibilities, and a common vocational calling.

“We have been there for each other for support. Mostly, we did not see each other often on campus except once in a while in the skills lab to practice,” Aryee shared.

Kwanin and Owusu praise Aryee for being a strong encourager throughout their classes, which were occasionally challenging. Asked about their experience at SUNY Orange, the women each shared their pride about completing their nursing degrees.

“You have to be disciplined,” said Kwanin. “It’s not easy, and you must be serious. The program is strict so that you will be well-trained.”

Owusu echoed these feelings and added, “They have great teachers to help and guide you. You have to be dedicated to putting in the work. It is tough but doable.”

“This is such a prestigious program,” said Aryee. “SUNY Orange is highly regarded and recognized by those in the community for having a strong reputation. Being a graduate makes me proud. It feels great.”

Looking to the future, Kwanin shares, “I am going to take my time making a decision. I have thought about teaching or working in a hospital, in the operating room, and I would like to specialize in wound care.”

Owusu said, “If the opportunity came, we would work together. We have studied together and even cried together. I want to continue my education to pursue my bachelor’s degree and work bedside for a few years. I worked in oncology at Garnet Hospital for my Nursing 5 clinical and really liked it.”

“I will work while I consider my options. My youngest child has special needs, and I want to spend some time with my children before looking into completing my BSN,” said Aryee.

The group all agree the primary focus is completing their NCLEX exams as soon as they can be scheduled--to help reduce the risk of forgetting anything they just learned. 

Kwanin is hosting a graduation party to celebrate the trio's achievements. The new alums will remain connected through their heritage, sisterhood, faith, and shared passion as nurses. Imagine three women from West Africa who have connected in New York and are now proud SUNY Orange alumnae.