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Morrisville State College Student Receives Rays of Light Award

MORRISVILLE, N.Y.—Long before he was helping elderly neighbors take out their garbage and assisting with community events through Cub Scouts, Emile Nakombo was always in the middle of helping someone.

The desire to help others is inherent in the Morrisville State College student who is the recipient of the college’s first Rays of Light Award.

The award is presented to a student based on volunteerism in his or her community.

“He exemplifies all of the characteristics that go along with this award,” Lisa Rusch, a member of the award committee and assistant professor in the college’s sports, nutrition and fitness management program, said.

It started with friends and neighbors. Nakombo, 20, an automotive service specialist major from Westchester, N.Y., would help them with household tasks, namely the elderly who lived nearby.

This intrinsic nature flourished throughout life—as a Cub Scout then a Boy Scout, working for merit badges, cleaning camps and performing other volunteer service in his community.

Nakombo presently volunteers for Saving Our Sons (SOS), an organization in Tuckahoe, N.Y., close to his home, which mentors teens and young adult African-American boys and girls who lack a positive male role model/father figure in their lives. Participants attend classes and graduate at the end of the after-school program.

Nakombo understands more than most the importance of this organization. Not long ago, SOS helped him find direction in his own life.

Born in Romania, Nakombo grew up in Togo, West Africa, a nation of 5 million people located on the coast between Ghana and Benin. He moved to the United States with his mother and sister when he was 5 years old to escape political unrest and poverty and to seek a better way of life.

SOS provided valuable support to Nakombo, who described himself as a poor high school student, before his mother urged him to enroll in the group.

“SOS gave me a different kind of guidance,” Nakombo said. “My confidence was boosted and I felt like I was worth something.”

The program had such a profound impact on him, he returned as a volunteer.

“I wanted to give back to the community what it gave so unselfishly to me,” he said.

It was one of the most rewarding decisions he ever made.

Through SOS, Nakombo mentors young boys and girls. They learn how to be good citizens and they are taught study skills, business skills and entrepreneurship.

During high school, Nakombo volunteered for the organization after school and football practice. Throughout college, he volunteered during breaks.

“He is a very dynamic young man,” George Lambrecht, former director of SOS entrepreneurship training who mentored then worked with Nakombo, said. “He has a commitment-to-excellence attitude and a drive that is truly remarkable.”

Lambrecht said Nakombo was often the first person to enthusiastically volunteer to chaperone participants on SOS trips.

“He is well respected by everyone, especially the kids in the program,” Lambrecht said. “The energy he gives off makes kids feel positive around him, and he is always telling them not to give up. When there are obstacles in their path, he tells them to find another way around them.”

Nakombo was instrumental in starting a homework program through SOS, a tutor class that assists participants with homework and difficult course work.

Working with a young boy who wasn’t doing well in social aspects of his life or in school is one of Nakombo’s greatest success stories.

He helped the student with his studies while also talking about life, sports, the world and aspirations for the future. As they worked together, the young boy’s grades started to improve, his social skills became more adept and he started realizing his worth and potential in school and life.

“I have never been so proud of being a part of something,” Nakombo said.

In addition to his work with SOS, Nakombo assists a church in his community delivering meals to the elderly, and he also participated in the Tuckahoe Police Department’s bicycle and children identification days.

Through volunteering, Nakombo has discovered a lot about life and himself.

“I have learned valuable lessons—patience, perseverance and how I can make a difference,” he said. “There is no greater feeling than helping someone else triumph in life, to help them set goals in life and to give them confidence and courage.”

Nakombo is the son of Evelyne Blakime, of Westchester, N.Y.

Morrisville State College offers more than 70 bachelor and associate degrees. Considered to be one of the most technologically advanced colleges in the nation for its ThinkPad University program and wireless technology initiative, the college recently became the first in the nation to comprehensively replace landlines in residence halls with individual cellular phones. Morrisville State College was also chosen as one of the top five colleges in the nation for campus activities by Campus Activities magazine.

The Morrisville State College Norwich Campus offers associate degree programs in business, computer technology, office administration, liberal arts transfer, nursing and early childhood to Chenango County area residents and employers. Students may also apply coursework to other associate or bachelor degrees at the main campus.