Teacher shares inspiring journey from West Africa to Pennsylvania

French and Chemistry teacher Ganieyou Salamy came to the United States from West Africa to provide for his children

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Teacher shares inspiring journey from West Africa to Pennsylvania

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If there were a Tyrone Area High School award for miles travelled on life’s journey, TAHS French and chemistry teacher Ganieyou Salamy would be a strong favorite to win.

Salamy was born and raised in Côte d’Ivoire, also known as Ivory Coast, in West Africa. Salamy’s parents were originally from Nigeria and moved the family to Ivory Coast early in Salamy’s childhood for business.

Early Life

Salamy lost his father at age 10. “I would say that I had to quickly mature. I had a challenging life at an early age,” said Salamy. “I’m used to living a hard life.”

He began learning English in Côte d’Ivoire in sixth grade. “I really enjoyed learning English,” said Salamy, “but was a challenge to memorize the words and phrases for tests.”

After completing high school, Salamy earned degree and teaching certification in physics and chemistry in Côte d’Ivoire. Salamy then taught physics and chemistry in a government-run high school in Côte d’Ivoire.

The Visa

Coming to the United States was originally his wife Lysette’s idea. Lysette’s sister was a graduate student at Pennsylvania State University and first encouraged Salamy and his wife to apply for visas to come to the United States.

“I never dreamed about coming to the United States,” said Salamy. “I was OK. It was my wife that wanted this for our children.”

Tragedy again struck in Salamy’s life before the family’s visa to immigrate to the United States was approved. His wife Lysette passed away in 2000 as a result of a tumor. In the aftermath of this tragedy, the prospect of moving to the United States seemed unlikely.

The Decision

More than a year after his wife passed, Salamy got some unexpected news. The U.S. visas that his wife had applied for before she passed away had been approved. Salamy felt his world shift. So badly had his wife wanted this, and now it was his. He had to go, resolved filled him.

“In our tradition, we believe a lot in destiny,” he said.

At a family dinner, Salamy talked about the big decision ahead of him.

“We asked for God to help us in this adventure because it was a big unknown,” said Salamy as they prayed.

He sold his personal belongings to be able to come to the United States. Once he could afford the visa and a one-way ticket, he was off.

The first time Salamy came to the United States was in April 2001, he traveled alone. It was a 10-hour flight from Côte d’Ivoire to his destination at JFK Airport in New York. He stayed with his sister-in-law for about six months.

“I wanted to see what life in the United States was like and if it was something I could do,” said Salamy.

After six months of being in the United States, he made the decision to bring two of his daughters to the United States. The youngest two stayed with their grandmother and after a year Salamy went back to Côte to pick them up.

Salamy’s first job in the United States was at a McDonald’s in State College, Pa. Little by little he earned and saved, each dollar bringing him closer to his family.

In his first year in the United States, Salamy couldn’t afford college classes, so he took free English as Second Language (ESL) classes at a State College community center.

Salamy says he is proud that he made the decision to come to the United States. He did it for his children to have a good education and a chance to have a better life.

United States Differences

According to Salamy, there are many differences between the way the institutions and government works in the United States.

“I feel like the institutions work better here in the United States. In the U.S .there is more transparency, people respect the law, and no one seems to be above the law,” said Salamy, “In Côte d’Ivoire, there is a lot of corruption.”

Eventually Salamy was able to save enough money to attend Penn State University. There he completed his Master’s Degree in education. Later he was hired full time at Tyrone High School to teach French, and later chemistry.

Salamy is currently remarried and lives in State College. Salamy said that his children are all very successful.

Salamy’s three daughters are now grown and on their own. Ade Jelila is a nurse at a children’s hospital in Ohio. Anissat teaches at an elementary school in Ohio. Seymira is a cook and manages a cooking website. She is also a fitness coach at Koko Fit Club in State College.

His youngest son, Aziz, is a freshman in high school. He enjoys participating in football, track and field, wrestling and he is a black belt in karate.

“There’s a reason for everything,” says Salamy. “Wait for yours to come.”

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