Liberian Wenwu Ozangar knows the plight of immigrant African girls who face language and cultural barriers that hinder their life prospects.
She found a way to help them through an alumni group at St. Cloud State University that provides mentorship, Today’s Women Alumni Association. “I get joy out of Today’s Women because I‘ve been there. I was that girl … I see myself,” said Ozangar. “I went through some of the same struggles.” The warranty administrator at Brookdale Honda earned a bachelor’s degree in public administration from the school, and has a passion for helping young girls achieve their college aspirations.
Liberians largest African group in Minn.
Ozangar said Liberians are the largest group of African immigrants in Minnesota, numbering about 30,000, though her group serves all Africans. Immigrant parents are often unfamiliar with school systems in Minnesota, and don’t know how to request financial aid for college, she explains. And, this aid often requires citizenship, which Today’s Women helps with, as well.
While serving with the leadership of Today’s Women, Ozangar has also sponsored an African girl from Champlin High School. Gloria James has since graduated and is studying biology on scholarships at the University of Minnesota.
Her mentee worked to secure the scholarships and gave her a ride to an internship while she was in high school. “She’s very smart,” said Ozangar.
Most of the students served by Today’s Women in St. Cloud were Somali immigrants, who have a strong presence in that area. Part of the warranty administrator’s role with the group was to help make decisions when the leadership can’t come to a consensus. She served as vice president and secretary.
Civil war refugees find rest in Minn.
Ozangar was born in Monrovia, Liberia’s capital city, and lived in rural Zorzor before fleeing the country with her family when she was six. Such is the story for many displaced Liberians in the Land of 10,000 Lakes. “Once they decided to stay here. Most of them did get asylum,” she said.
Civil war there prompted many people to leave. Most appreciate and value the freedoms enjoyed in the U.S., and the privilege it is to live in this country, she said. “My dad always tells me ‘You have come too far, to come to America and waste your opportunities. Go to school, do what you want to do … even to be alive right now is a blessing.”
One of the least understood things about Liberians, she said, is that they are pro-America. The African country was actually created for freed slaves from America, she said. “Maybe we don’t speak as they do, so they think that we’re very ‘other,’ but we know American history as well as they do.”