Defying the Odds
Having triumphed in the face of adversity, Marie Fleurima paves a way toward a brighter future.
In 2008, the day before Mardi Gras, Marie Fleurima was on her way to enjoy music and dancing in the streets of Pétion-Ville, a hillside suburb just east of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, when she was abducted by a group of men who knew her uncle in the United States could afford to pay a ransom for her release.
In the States on Temporary Protection Status, Fleurima lives in Skokie with the uncle who rescued her. Since her arrival, she has spent most of her time at Oakton – first taking ESL classes, then preparing for her GED, and now completing the prerequisites she needs to enroll in the College’s nursing program. “My mother died when I was two years old, so my grandmother took care of me,” Fleurima explains. “Whooping cough and other childhood illnesses often kept me from attending grade school. Luckily, my grandmother was able to teach me at home, so I was well-prepared for high school and the university. I became a lab technician in a pediatric office. I was married, owned a home, and had a good job before I was kidnapped, raped, and tortured. That’s when my world fell apart.”
For Fleurima, Oakton has been a place of refuge, renewal, and hope. “I am grateful to the College for providing me with the education I need to create a new life,” she says. “Because I am fighting for asylum, my future is uncertain, but I’m not about to give up. Adversity has only made me stronger.”