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Living the dream

MURFREESBORO — Don’t let anything get between you and your dreams.

On Saturday, Xi Rho Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc. held their 27th Annual Human Rights Banquet at Nebo Baptist Church Family Life Center.

Xi Rho Omega Chapter President Krista Jernigan said the annual banquet is to raise money for scholarships to assist young ladies in Hertford and Bertie counties in their endeavor to attend college.

“We hope that our effort and your support will help keep someone’s dream of attending college alive,” she said to the audience.

Jernigan announced the renaming of the chapter’s annual scholarship to the Mamie Scott Hall Memorial Scholarship. Hall, who passed away in December 2009, was affiliated with Xi Rho Omega and retired from Hertford County Schools after 31 years as a teacher. Jernigan said Hall’s legacy of community involvement, education and religious commitment needed to be continued.

“We hope this gesture will keep her memory and sweet spirit alive within other young ladies we continue to assist with this scholarship,” she said.

The guest speaker for the event was Jill Awuni, the director for International Student Ministries and instructor of religion and business courses at Chowan University.

Awuni, a native of Ghana in West Africa, spoke about her path to becoming a Christian, her decision to move to Murfreesboro and the importance of giving young people direction, beginning at home, in order for them to achieve their dreams and goals.

Awuni comes from the Frafra Tribe and was born into the royal home of Zorbizee. She recalled her childhood in Africa and her family’s journey in converting from the traditional religion of Juju to Christianity, which occurred when Awuni’s sister died.

“They said that she was dead; they had pulled all of the plugs and the Christians they came and prayed for my sister,” Awuni recalled. “She came back to life.”

Her parents conversion to Christianity didn’t sit well with her grandfather who was chief. Awuni’s father, who was next in line, could no longer participate in tribe ceremonies.

“For my grandfather this was a slap in the face,” she said. “Most families (in Ghana) have a symbol of the family, ours was the clay pot. The pot was broken and a piece of it was given to my father and we were told to get out.”

Awuni’s family life drastically changed from having servants and being royalty to living in a small room and sleeping on mats. School also posed a problem for the young Awuni, who was picked on because she was Christian. She began to resent her family’s new religion.

“I hated everyone associated with Christianity,” she recalled. “Christianity had deprived me of who I was.”

Attending church is where Awuni’s feelings began to change.

“(The preacher) said something that changed me, he said, ‘Going to church is not enough. …You need that one on one relationship’.”

From an early age Awuni identified that education was vital.

“There was something inside me that told me that school was my way out,” she said.

She now holds a Bachelors of Theology in Missions from International Baptist Theological Seminary in Prague, Czech Republic as well as her Masters of Divinity in Pastoral Care and Counseling/Studies and her Masters of Business Administration in Business Law and Ethics, both from Gardner-Webb University. In 2006, she also became an ordained minister.

“It’s up to you to push your kids,” she said. “It’s up to you to change that person.”

A way to achieve those goals, Awuni noted, is to start by making a list and then after accomplishing one strive to accomplish the next.

Achieving those goals also means overcoming obstacles.

“We have every right to call ourselves victims, we have every right to complain and cry, but that will not solve one thing,” she said. “Victim mentality keeps us down, bonded and enslaved.”

Awuni said she liked those people who told her she could not achieve anything because she loves challenges.

“That’s what kids need, they need someone to tell them they can do it; that nothing in this world can stop them from achieving their dreams,” she said.