May 15, 2019

A U.S. citizen and college graduate all in one month

UW-Superior soccer player, Mohammed Keita, has worked hard on and off the field and is now reaping the rewards.

For college seniors, the month of May signals a significant life change. They’ll make the epic walk across the stage, accepting the diploma they’ve worked countless hours to achieve, and begin the next chapter of their lives. That will be the case at UW-Superior on Saturday, May 18, when one of the largest classes in the past decade will have degrees bestowed upon it.

Among the graduates will be Mohammed Keita (’19 transportation & logistics major). As big of a life change as graduating from college is, for Mohammed, it won’t even qualify as the biggest life change of this calendar year. About a month prior to his college graduation, he went through another ceremony to be sworn in as an American citizen, where he also changed his first name from Mauligbe to Mohammed.

“It is important for me to get citizenship because I love this country. This country is giving me opportunities to live a better life and put myself in a position where I can make a positive impact on people’s live in the community,” he said. “Especially for my family, and a majority of my family still lives in Guinea.”

During NCAA Division III Week in 2017, Yellowjacket Athletics documented Keita’s journey — one in which he left family members behind in his native country, located in West Africa, to emigrate to the United States with his mother and brother. The move in 2005 eventually led the family to Brooklyn Park, Minn., a northern suburb of Minneapolis.

“It was tough at first because none of us spoke English. Malinke is the most spoken language in Guinea and I also speak Arabic and French (the country’s official language), but I didn't know any English when I got here," Mohammed said. "I needed ESL (English as a Second Language) classes. The schooling system is very different here. We were used to having school that was religion-based, in Islam, and we spent a lot of time studying the Koran. It was hard to get used to the kind of school that you have in the United States.”

The one constant for Mohammed, from Guinea to Minnesota, was soccer, and it not only enabled him be part of a state championship high school team, but it was also the vehicle that led him to college.

“I think I’ve said this before, but I really enjoyed getting to know Mohammed through the recruiting process. Every player is different and that makes every recruiting process different, but with Mualigbe everything just felt good,” Yellowjacket Head Coach Joe Mooney said. “I knew pretty early on that he would be a great fit for our program and would be an asset to UW-Superior.”

Mohammed arrived at UW-Superior in 2015 where he became a fixture on the men’s soccer team, as well as a full-time student in the transportations and logistics management program. But all the while, he was working on becoming a citizen of the United States.

“Not a lot of people knew what he was doing, but it’s pretty remarkable to have someone putting their all into school and soccer, working multiple jobs on campus, and then going through the process to become a citizen,” Mooney said. “He has been through a lot in his life and it has made him a very strong person. I knew he would one day be a citizen because he accomplishes things he sets his mind to.”

“Becoming a citizen was kind of a long process. My process took over a year. The test you take at the end was not too difficult. They give you a book to study called Learn About the United States, which is a quick civics lesson and I’d learned a lot of that in high school,” Mohammed said. “There were a hundred questions I had to study for, and they test you on ten of the 100. You need to get six out of ten right to pass.”

And pass he did, so in April he went through the ceremony to become the third member of his family to become an American citizen, joining his mother and brother. It’s a moment he said he’ll never forget.

“I felt accomplished, relief, happiness and blessed,” he said of his feelings during the ceremony. “There were times I had to miss classes to go to the Twin Cities for my appointments, but in the end it is all worth it.

“To be an American citizen means a lot to me. It is a privilege. I am part of one of the greatest countries in the world. I have every right that all Americans do, such as being loyal to the country, assisting whatever I can to contribute to the society and community. Being a citizen means I treat everyone with respect, supporting the soldiers, not judging people because of their religion, color, status or beliefs. I have the freedom to practice my religion, which is Islam. I have all this because I’m an American.”

When he crosses the stage as a newly-minted graduate of UW-Superior, Mohammed will have plenty of options for what he will do next, but no matter the path, his coach knows he’ll be fine.

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