News at Brookhaven College

DCCCD student who fled civil war, death receives scholarship for bravery and courage

Release Date June 26

Ibrahim kamara

(Dallas) -- School was secondary to survival for Ibrahim Kamara as he fled civil war and a sadistic regime of rebels who invaded Freetown, Sierra Leone, when he was a child. Shuttled from Guinea years earlier after the death of his father to Sierra Leone to live with his uncle, Ibrahim witnessed atrocities and ran from the war, only to return to the city four months later and face the loss of his sight.

He fought back, however, and regained his vision after doctors discovered that his eyes had become infected with gunpowder; they treated him with an intense regimen of medication to correct the problem. He literally focused his life then on learning, became prefect of his high school -- Prince of Wales -- in Freetown as well as president of his science club.

That tenacity and courage finally brought Ibrahim to the United States and Brookhaven College, where he is working on an associate's degree in engineering, with plans to transfer and eventually earn a doctorate in chemical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He wants to use that degree to invent new technology to help reduce the effects of global warming and also to conduct research and develop "quick and easier tests and treatments for cancer."

Kamara was recognized as the 2014-2015 recipient of the Dallas County Community College District's Erin Tierney Kramp Encouragement Endowed Scholarship during a special dinner on Wednesday, June 25, in Dallas.

The scholarships will help Kamara reach for his dreams with financial support provided by the scholarship, which covers full tuition and books for up to six semesters.

The courage and perseverance shown by Ibrahim in the face of adversity are traits exhibited by the person for whom the award is named. Erin Tierney Kramp, who fought breast cancer from 1994 to 1998, created a videotaped legacy on "life lessons" for her young daughter that would convey Erin's views and advice to Peyton as the young girl grew up, following her mother's death. Erin touched many lives and inspired countless strangers when she co-authored Living with the End in Mind (with her husband and a family friend) and through appearances on programs like 20/20 and the Oprah Winfrey Show. Winfrey featured the Kramp story/segment as one of her "most memorable guests" during a May 2011 farewell show as the program reached its historic end. Erin's legacy lives on through the Kramp Foundation, the DCCCD scholarship program and the lives of all of its recipients.

"The Erin Tierney Kramp program awards scholarships to students based on their courage and perseverance in the face of adversity," said Michael Brown, president of the Erin Tierney Kramp Foundation. "We see these qualities in Ibrahim, who bravely survived his own challenges and who plans to help others by going on to college and preparing for a career that will serve others. His story exemplifies what our past recipients have demonstrated repeatedly through Erin's legacy. When individuals face adversity, the struggles that they endure will either make them stronger or defeat them. Winning that battle requires courage and perseverance. Ibrahim Kamara has proven he possesses both traits, and he truly deserves this honor."

"The brutal civil war that took place in Sierra Leone left unbearable pain during my childhood years," recalls Ibrahim. "Moving from one country to another -- from Guinea to Sierra Leone, then back to Guinea and again to Sierra Leone -- made it very difficult for me, as an 11-year-old boy, to pursue my dream of a better education."

Ibrahim, whose father died in 2002, came from a family of six children. He dropped out of school for a year to sell vegetables at the market to help make ends meet. His uncle, who lived in Sierra Leone, convinced Ibrahim's mother that he would have a better life and more opportunities to learn in that country. The youngster left Guinea and moved to Freetown -- a place where he was supposed to pursue his education and where he would be safe from rebels who were on the march then in Sierra Leone.

As he worked through the loss of his father and fought to concentrate on his studies, Ibrahim dreamed about finishing high school and going to college. That dream was cut short, however, when rebels invaded Freetown, killing and maiming thousands. He and his uncle were on the run for four months and, when schools closed and the civil war continued, Ibrahim's uncle sent him back to Guinea, where the young boy would be safer with his mother.

Working through the challenge of potentially losing his sight, Kamara returned half a year later to his uncle's home in Freetown, where he eventually was able to enroll in classes after a two-year absence from school. Armed with determination and his restored vision, Ibrahim finished a successful high school career after he became the head prefect and president of the science club.

But Ibrahim's dream wasn't complete. He has since come to the United States and to Brookhaven College so that he can become a chemical engineer. His uncle continues to play a key role, using his life savings to pay for Ibrahim to study in the U.S. because no universities in Sierra Leone offer a degree in the young man's chosen field.

The Brookhaven College student lives in Frisco, so he gets up at 5 a.m. for school and returns home at 9 p.m. because he has full class days and a lengthy commute. That schedule does not deter him.

Ibrahim says, "Leaving behind everything I used to know in order to fight my way and achieve my dream is really tough. It has been eight years since I last saw my mother and brothers. I am determined and highly motivated by the fact that my struggles and adversities are the driving force for my success. I'm doing it for them."

Four returning Erin Tierney Kramp Encouragement Scholarship Award recipients will again attend DCCCD colleges in the fall: Carrollton resident Ruth Clason, who is majoring in pre-med at Brookhaven College; Ana Immerso, a mathematics major at Brookhaven College who lives in Dallas; Sachse resident Elizabeth Shirey who is majoring in special education at Eastfield College and Dallas resident Kathy Tran, a Brookhaven College student who is majoring in visual communications.

Two additional students will receive one-time Erin Tierney Kramp Scholarship grants that they can use toward school expenses. They are Djangoran Famie of Dallas, who plans to attend Brookhaven College and major in finance; and Marcellino Estrello of Dallas, who plans to attend Brookhaven College and major in business.

For more information, contact Kathye Hammontree in the DCCCD Foundation office by phone at (214) 378-1536 or by email at


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