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Success Stories

​Bertha Mendoza

Class of 2017 Valedictorian 

Coming to America from El Salvador when she was 10-years-old, Bertha Mendoza worked hard as a student, but her options were limited when she graduated from George Washington High School. Because she was not eligible for financial aid, she felt like a degree was simply out of reach for her financially. With limited career options, Bertha focused on another passion – starting a family.

After the passage of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), Bertha realized she could still be a mother while also achieving her career goals. She started classes after going through the DACA application process. By this time, she had spent years outside of the classroom and going back was scary. She didn’t know if she could be successful, and she was unsure if she would be able to balance her classes with her family responsibilities. Bertha credits her family with always being an amazing safety net to help her achieve her goals. The support they gave, both emotionally and physically, are a big reason why Bertha was always able to stay committed to her schoolwork.

Now that she has finished her associate degree, Bertha plans to continue her studies in Spanish education at a four-year university. What Bertha will miss most is the personal interactions she had at Olive-Harvey College. “Olive-Harvey does a great job making you feel like you belong,” she says. “You’re always a person at Olive-Harvey. You’re never a number.”

​Temitayo Odulaja

Class of 2017 Salutatorian 

Making the transition to living in America was abrupt for Temitayo (Temi) Odulaja. From his first moment walking out of the airport and feeling the cold Chicago wind, he knew things were going to be much different than what it was like in his home country of Nigeria. Coming to America to further his education, Temi enrolled at Olive-Harvey College thanks to its close proximity and affordable price. As someone who loves learning, Temi was excited to start class and experience this new opportunity. Going to college was always something he wanted, and he was ready to experience the new environment.

Just because Temi was passionate about learning doesn’t mean things were always easy for him. Adapting to American accents was difficult and took a lot of work and determination to make sure he was understanding each lesson. He made sure to get the help he needed by going to the Tutoring Center for help in his English and social sciences classes. Getting more accustomed to the campus also led Temi to get more involved. He joined Phi Theta Kappa and is now a senator in the Olive-Harvey Student Government Association.  The people he’s met and the relationships he’s built are some that he’ll never forget. “You have people here who really care about you,” he says. “There’s a mutual understanding here that helping others is important.”

Now that he has completed his associate degree, Temi is considering his transfer options to study mass communications and become an investigative journalist.​ 

Olajumoke Arogundade 
Class of 2016 

Olajumoke “Jummie” Arogundade doesn’t like being idle. A full-time homemaker when she moved to America with her husband, Jummie started getting restless when her daughter started pre-school. She had too much time on her hands. Despite having a microbiology degree from a university in her homeland of Nigeria, she knew getting a degree from an American institution was the only way to compete in the U.S. workforce.

Olive-Harvey College was the perfect place for Jummie to start her education while balancing her other responsibilities as a mother and a wife. Quickly completing her GED and moving on to credit classes, she found classes that provided a good stepping stone to her next goal. Adding an outside job to her schedule was a bit more stress, but she handled it. “You always have to work hard,” she says. “Nothing is going to be easy, so sometimes you have to do things that are hard.”Olajumoke is graduating from Olive-Harvey’s child development program and will start at either Governors State University or National Lewis University to get her bachelor degree in social work in Spring 2017. 

Nonso Achebe  

Class of 2016  

Graduating from Chicago’s Kenwood Academy on the South Side of Chicago, Nonso Achebe was unsure what his next step would be after high school.  

Nonso’s mother went to Olive-Harvey College and thought the school’s small classes would allow him to concentrate on academics and help transition him into the college environment. She was right. Olive-Harvey made it easy for Nonso to ask questions of his instructors and seek tutoring services.  

As he gets closer to graduating, Nonso has been evaluating what comes next with the help of his college advisor. Interested in both nutrition and the environment, he is looking for work and internship opportunities that will help him choose between or combine his interests and settle on a major at a four-year college.  

Samuel Amadi

Samuel Amadi came to America to chase his dream of becoming a pharmacist. Along that path he chose Olive-Harvey and that decision shaped his journey in a positive way. Being from an underdeveloped nation, Amadi was used to struggle but also known for his determination…that determination allowed him to adjust, flourish, and become a strong contributing factor to the Olive-Harvey community. Growing up in Lesotho (South Africa), Amadi became interested in medicine and pharmacy after watching doctors give expired drugs to patients as well as incorrect dosages often resulting in overdoses. He knew he wanted to change this practice and decided that college was the only way to do it. He didn’t qualify for many assistance programs or financial aid due to his F-1 Visa and immigrant status. Amadi found City Colleges to be the best option for him. Beginning at Malcolm X and Harold Washington, he decided landed at Olive Harvey. He says Olive-Harvey placed him on a path to success with strong academics, caring instructors, and a support system that kept him on track. Amadi is the Olive-Harvey 2015 valedictorian, graduating with a 4.0 GPA. Samuel will be transferring Belmont University in Nashville, TN in the fall to continue his studies. He hopes to attend their pharmacy school after receiving his BS.      


Jose Bribiesca      

If there is something you will learn from Jose Bribiesca it is that he is a persistent, dedicated, motivated and hardworking man. If you had the opportunity and shared a class with him, you would know he is always available to help you when you are stuck on a topic. This 26-year-old, who has earned a perfect 4.0 grade point average and will earn an Associate Degree in General Studies in May, is the 2015 salutatorian at Olive-Harvey College.     

A native of Guanjuato, Mexico, Bribiesca moved to Chicago in 2008 and obtained a GED diploma the same year. A resident of the South Side of Chicago, Bribiesca began his educational journey at the South Chicago Learner Center, a satellite campus of Olive-Harvey College, where he took English as a second language classes. Bribiesca began working at a furniture company in 2009 and, in January 2013, he enrolled at Saint Augustine College. Being a full time worker and a full time student at the same time wasn’t easy for Bribiesca, but he knew once you know what you want in life, it is not hard to accomplish it.     

As bills mounted, Jose compared educational plans and prices at Saint Augustine and Olive-Harvey. He decided to transfer to Olive-Harvey College and began classes the summer of 2013. Despite Jose having to constantly struggle with knowing English as his second language, he says students, faculty and staff have made it a smooth and excellent experience for him. He felt like he was home    

Bribiesca has plans in the future of continuing his education and earning a bachelor’s degree in Computer Engineering and becoming part of one of the high-tech industry. He has been accepted into the University of Illinois at Chicago, and he is ready to begin classes in the fall.    

Shari Smith       

Shari received her Basic Certificate in TDL in the Fall of 2014. She knew from researching the field that TDL was an industry with growth potential and Olive-Harvey College's flexible scheduling made it easy her to take courses meanwhile work. Shari credits Olive-Harvey with being "affordable, effective and structured." After receiving her certificate Shari accepted a job with Coca-Cola as an Inventory Control Analyst. In this role she is responsible for warehouse inventory maintenance and reconciliation on a daily basis. Counting all full goods and raw materials in the warehouse on a daily basis, manually or using a handheld scanner. Researching and reconcile daily inventory variances. Reconciling the daily, monthly, and annual inventory to the SAP computer system. Identifying and report close dated product. Smith says, "The Olive-Harvey TDL program opened a new opportunity for me. I am now working at one of the top corporations in America with strong growth potential. I would recommend the program to anyone."