Living life literally in the streets is how Michael Mungai lived in Nairobi, Kenya, but an opportunity presented itself for him to come to the United States to attend St. Joseph's University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Michael explains. “I am from a place called Dagoretti in Nairobi, Kenya, and I use to be a street boy when I was in Dagoretti. It is a suburb in the outskirts of Nairobi. That is where I grew up, and that is when I appeared in a documentary called Left Behind,” he says.
“Somebody saw me in the streets and they took me back to school, and after finishing my high school, not performing really well, I didn’t go to college immediately, but I could see my brothers in the streets, and they were in so much suffering. So I decided I am going to do whatever it takes to help them. And that is when I met three other inspired young men, and we shared the same idea and we decided to come together and whichever connections that we might have try to help these children who have been marginalized by society,” he says. “That’s when we started this organization called ‘Dagoretti for Kids.’
So while I was doing that, I met this young man from Saint Joseph’ s University. An American. His name is Mark Orrs. He told me he had seen my documentary, Left Behind, and he encouraged me to apply to Saint Joseph’s University and I was successful to get a four-year full scholarship. I arrived here in September 2005 after a period of three years without going to school.”
Deciding on a major, Michael says, depended on something that would benefit the work that he does back home with other kids that live on the streets. “When I first came over here, I was first thinking about doing Sociology which is related to the work that I do with children in Kenya, but when I came over I decided to find to learn about Sociology I realized it might be different from the Sociology I was expecting because it is based on the American society.
So I decided that I am going to take a course which is going to be applicable to the work that I might have plans for in the future and right now I am an Economics major.”
Math is the only class Michael says is a struggle for him. The other courses he's taking, Michael says, he is doing okay in. “When I moved in here I first came to ELS, that is English Language School, and I got a very good assimilation of the American culture, but I would say that now I am trying really hard to fit in, in college and although I have difficulty in Math the other courses that I am taking which is Comparative Politics, Micro-Economics and Macro-Economics I think I am doing fine,” he says. “I am not struggling too much.”
Michael is a first semester freshman. Not only does he spend his time studying, but he also travels to other colleges and universities to bring awareness to the issues that are affecting his country as well Africa as a whole. When it comes to his economics class, one thing Michael says he has learned and will be of value to him is "the opportunity cost."
“One thing I learned in Economics class is something which we call ‘The Opportunity Cost,’" Michael explains. "The opportunity cost is like work first of all you put aside for so that you can come and pursue your education.
"The opportunity cost is big because I left behind something that I really loved to do - and I really love it with all my heart - so that means that this education means much more than it might look and then I might also say that with the knowledge that the university offers that is something that I do treasure,” he says. “It means a lot to me. I am out of words. I am even trying to see like the money I am suppose to pay here that is like so much money and I am a big, big investment so I am going to make the best out of that and try to do the best that I can do with it.”
Going back to Kenya is what Michael says he will do once he has completed his studies at St. Joseph University. “One thing that I know is that whatever level of education that I am going to get here, I have already decided that I am going back to Kenya and try to help in the situation which is right there now,” he says.
“People there usually die everyday because they cannot eat. They do not have access to basic necessities that they need to survive and the fact that I know that, the fact that I have experienced that means everything to me so I am going to use my education and my experience here in the U-S to go and try to help because when you look at all these problems it usually come as a result of a bad economy, not to mention bad governors, but I will blame it on the bad economy,” he says.
“ I would say that Kenya do need another economist and that is going to be me, then let it be for the glorification of humanity.”