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Rhodes graduate gets her White House wish

Date Released: Tue, 12 February 2013 14:49 +0200

Growing up in a home sometimes short of money – but always full of love – has inspired a talented Grahamstown university graduate to realise her dreams and help others reach for the stars too.

Recently returned to the City of Saints after spending three weeks in America attending a prestigious leadership outreach programme, 26- year-old journalism graduate Nompumezo Makinana’s journey from Joza to the White House has given hope to the many young people she works with at the acclaimed Upstart youth development project.

Although her father Phumelelo works in a local supermarket packing shelves and her mother Nothemba makes and sells bead craft at the landmark Drostdy Arch at Rhodes University, Nompumezo never ever considered this a stumbling block to achieving her dreams.

“I am not from a previously disadvantaged background,” she explains. “I grew up with two parents who really loved me, who did everything in their power to give me the things they never had themselves.”

Despite the love and encouragement she received growing up, Nompumezo admits she still never thought she would ever make it into Rhodes University to follow her journalism dream.

“Even though Rhodes is only a few kilometres away from our Joza house, I never thought I would ever get to go there.”

Recalling how she was inspired to reach for her dreams by special people in her life – including her parents and now deceased high school economics teacher Mvela Goba – Nompumezo now spends her time working as a programme coordinator helping local students to build a better future for themselves.

The students from schools all over Grahamstown work together to produce several Upstart newspapers a year that detail their life experiences and also help them develop friendships that break down racial, cultural and language barriers too.

After matric, Nompumezo successfully applied for a National Student Financial Aid Scheme bursary and studied journalism at Rhodes.

Meeting young people from 17 other countries made Nompumezo realise “we all live in the same world and experience the similar challenges”.

“The problems young people have in Grahamstown are the same as the problems young people have in other parts of the world – the only difference is the way we solve them.”

Such common experiences include poverty, high unemployment and fear over future prospects .

During the trip, Nompumezo kept a daily blog detailing her visit to the White House – unfortunately President Barack Obama was not home – and other famous landmarks as well as her experiences with foreign food, much to the delight of the Upstart youngsters back home.

Upstart director Shireen Badat said the experiences Nompumezo had overseas would help in the work she was doing with students from 10 different schools in town and the township.

The outreach programme was about inspiring and broadening the horizons of local young people.
Nompumeza’s proud mother Nothemba said the family’s prayers had been answered.

“ Even though I am extremely proud of Nompumezo’s achievements, I am also extremely proud of the way me and and my husband of 37 years worked together to help her get where she is now.”

Written by:   David MacGregor  

Picture credit: Daily Dispatch

  • This article was published on Daily Dispatch.