People Voices

Humans of Fontbonne: Series 1

Humans of Fontbonne is a series of intimate and personal interviews with people on our campus. Most of these interviews are the participants’ first interactions with me. I sat in front of the library for an hour and people watched. I did not want to approach people talking on the phone or doing homework. I tried to find people who were sitting down and did not appear to be in a rush. I could tell within the first few seconds of me introducing myself whether or not they were comfortable talking to me. Some of the interviewees were shifting in their seat, a little nervous. Some interviewees had a big and contagious smile on their face as they began telling me about a loved one.

Humans of Fontbonne interviews can last ten minutes or can take up to an hour. It varies from person to person how open and willing they are to sit down with me and have their picture taken. Vulnerability is the main aspect of these interviews, both in my case as I approach someone I do not know, and for the interviewees, being openly vulnerable to me, someone they learn to trust when they tell their story. I am personally invested in these stories because our campus is so small. Often, Fontbonne tends to pride itself on the idea of a “Fontbonne family.” I have heard the same exact repetitive slogan used over and over. Are we really a “Fontbonne family” if we tend to stay inside our own circle of friends we have known since freshmen year? I am guilty of this myself, and I want to get outside of my comfort zone. I challenge you to do the same: sit by people you do not know, go to a student organization’s event you don’t usually attend, say “hi” to someone on the way to class. All I can say that the experience is rewarding, but now it’s up to you to try it for yourself. These are Humans of Fontbonne. 

Kofi Owusu is a Graduate student who is currently studying Business Administration. He is from Ghana, Africa and is new to St. Louis.

Kofi HOF

“What’s been the happiest moment of your life?”

“Ahh, it’s probably been the first day I held my baby girl. It was awesome. A baby girl. I love you Awura.”

“What are you most afraid of right now?”

“Fear, fear, fear, fear. I think my fear is going to hell, other than that, I don’t have a lot of fears. Um, I mean, I’m in a new environment, I’m expecting it to be okay. So far, I’ve really enjoyed this place, I hope everything goes well.”

“Are you from St. Louis?”

“No, I’m from Ghana.”

“What’s been the hardest part about moving to St. Louis?”

“Apartments. It’s funny, whenever I speak to somebody about my apartment, the biggest challenge I had here, I never knew how to apply honestly. Back home, it’s not like that. I got here and tried to enter and they told me ‘No, you have to apply before you can even get an apartment’ and I was like ‘What?! I don’t know anyone in St. Louis! How do you expect me to do this?’ But eventually they allowed me in. My first year here was very tough, very challenging. I ended up paying a lot of hotel bills.”

“What’s been the saddest moment of your life?”

“My godfather passed away in 2009. I wept uncontrollably. I never expected that to happen. He was somebody I learned to love. That day was sad. I was so sad that day.”

“What’s been your favorite part about being here at Fontbonne?”

“The campus is smaller compared to St. Louis or Wash U. It’s like a family. At Wash U, you have to really try to get to talk to people. At Fontbonne, it’s smaller, you can just walk around the whole campus in less than thirty minutes.”

“Can you tell me more about your daughter?”

“She’s a wonderful baby. I’m so glad I have her. She’s Awuradjoa Manye Serwaa Owusu. Awura means a lady. Adjoa means a female born on Monday. Manye means queen. Serwaa means intelligent and bold. Owusu means warrior. Hence, the literal translation of my girl’s name is a queen lady born on Monday who is intelligent and bold from a warrior family.”

Zung Ha is a sophomore at Fontbonne who is studying Computer Science. Zung is an international student from Hanoi, Vietnam.

Zung Ha HOF.jpg

“What’s been the happiest moment of your life?”

“My life? The happiest moment has been when I heard the news that I would come to this country and study. I was so happy that I would be learning a new culture and meeting new friends.”

“What are you most afraid of right now?”

“Me? [pause] I’m afraid of having a bad grade in my class that can drop my GPA down. It can make it harder for me to get a job.”

“What’s been the saddest moment of your life?”

“My old dog passed away. I was really sad because that dog was meaningful to me. I cried and I cried a lot. I went through it. Her name was Chicki.”

“Who has been the most influential person in your life?”

“Right now? My future wife. I don’t even know who she is yet. I will try to get money for her. I mean, my future wife (pause) I mean, a woman likes money right? No, I’m joking. I just want to help her get a good life, with me, of course! That means I want to study better and improve myself. I want to get a good amount of salary and have a good life experience.”

Yavette Palmer is a food service worker in Ryan Dining Hall who has recently finished her GED. The day I interviewed Yavette was her first day working at Fontbonne.

Yavette HOF

“What’s been the happiest moment of your life?”

“Finishing school. When I was a senior in high school, I ended up getting pregnant. So I then decided not to go to school. Then I thought, when my child comes, they are going to be like ‘My mom doesn’t have her high school diploma?’ and then they might think ‘Well I don’t need to get my high school diploma.’ By the time he was seven or eight months, I decided to go back to school, to the St. Louis Job Corps and finish there to get my GED. I took the test and passed that one time. I was really happy about that. That was just about the happiest moment of my life.”

“What are you most afraid of right now?”

“Failing. Or maybe starting a project and never finishing it. That makes me scared, especially failing.”

“What’s been the saddest moment of your life?”

“When my mom passed, it was unexpected. They just kept telling me, ‘come to the hospital, come to the hospital.’ By the time I got there, she was gone. It was the saddest time in my life.”

“Who has been the most influential person in your life?”

“My father and my mother. Both of them always pushed us to finish our educations and be the best that we can be. Man, I had the best, best parents. They raised us right, wanted us to do the right thing. All of that.”

“You lit up as soon as you mentioned your father, can you tell me more about him?”

“Because there’s nine of us. We all had the same father, and he stuck it out, some fathers like to leave when it’s that many children. Early in the morning, I would see him hustle. Whenever we didn’t have money, he would find copper and sell it. He would tell us to collect cans. We never went a day without eating, even if it was something we didn’t want to eat, we ate it. You know what I mean? He was a good provider, a good father, always talked to us. He was the first man in my life to say ‘I love you.’ He’s a big inspiration in my life. We spoil him to death now.”

“How is your first day at Fontbonne?”

“It was good. I mean, I caught on real fast. Everyone here is so friendly when they speak to you. The work environment is very good. I love it. If I could be here everyday, I would.”

Conor Martin is a freshman who is active in local politics. He is from Troy, MO. His major is undecided at this time.

Conor Martin HOF

“What’s been the happiest moment of my life?”

“When I met Ron Paul. He ran for president once. He’s a really cool guy and he believes in everything I do. He’s a sweet old man and is very smart.”

“What are you most afraid of right now?”

“Oh my gosh. I don’t like the idea of being alone. It’s a pretty scary thought. I don’t know, it’s just (pause) to be alone is pretty weird. I don’t like the idea of dying with having no one by my bed. Dying without someone there to talk to you sounds horrendous.”

“What’s been the saddest moment of your life?”

“When my aunt died. I was in second grade and she passed away. It was very hard. I was very close to her. She moved to Maryland for a year or two. My grandparents moved from Maryland to Missouri and it was less than a week later we found out she had died. It was very, very hard. It was very upsetting. She had lived with us for a short time. We were very close.”

“How did your aunt show she loved you?”

“I don’t know. The little things. I think about how I hung out with her more than any of my other aunts. I remember car rides with her, she picked me up from school sometimes. Just little things like that.”

“Who has been the most influential person in your life?”

“My grandma. She was the one who pushed me into going to college. It was never a thing I’ve been into. Still not really into it, but she wanted me to. I really admire her. I’ve loved her for a while. I didn’t see her for a few years. I remember one time they went back to Maryland and we dropped them off at the airport and I was sleeping and no one wanted to wake me. I was freaking out when I woke up and they were gone. It was a hard day.”

“What has been your best memory so far at Fontbonne?”

“I’ve enjoyed hanging out with people. I didn’t think I would make this many friends so quickly. My WING (Welcoming in New Griffins) team experience, meeting Maddy, Taylor, and Sarah, they’ve kind of initiated me into their crowd. It’s been very fun meeting a lot of people.”


3 comments on “Humans of Fontbonne: Series 1

  1. Such a welcoming and supportive environment at Fontbonne — and exemplary place to experience diversity at its best!

  2. Nancy Marsh

    This is a great article loved the honesty and the interesting replies.

  3. Toni Valdez

    I’m in tears I feel as I know these persons already. I want to be their friend too.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: