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Munu makes impact on Baxter, Newton communities

Published: Tuesday, June 17, 2014 11:09 a.m. CST • Updated: Tuesday, June 17, 2014 11:50 a.m. CST
(Submitted Photo)
Baxter High School foreign exchange student Ayesha Munu prepares for a school dance. She joined multiple activities to get to know people while living in Jasper County.

The aspect of daring someone to do something can have many results on the life of an individual. About a year ago, Ayesha Munu was given a dare to sign up for an exchange student program that was offered at her school in Sierra Leon. Ayesha didn’t back down from the dare, and a few months later found herself on a plane heading toward Iowa after she was accepted into the program.

“It was that one dare that made me fill out the application, which made me get here,” Ayesha said. “If I had not done that I wouldn’t be here right now, so that one dare truly changed my life for the better,” Ayesha said.

The challenges didn’t end for Ayesha, as she faced many new challenges through her 10 months in Iowa.

“I could list hundreds of dares, but to put it simple, it was getting through each day,” Ayesha said. “I found myself putting a smile on my face when I was very nervous or scared because I just wanted to go home.”

Ayesha only had a week to get settled in before beginning school in Baxter.

“Heading to school and simply understanding was something really big for me,” Ayesha said.

Ayesha joined groups and activities to help her get to know her peers. In joining the Baxter FFA, she would leave her mark in the community, as she was a part of a team that made it to the state FFA competition, which was a first for Baxter.

“People would say it would add a feather to my cap,” Ayesha said. “I feel that it added dozens of feathers, because it’s not something you would think about — that a girl from Africa and a little homeschool girl that not a lot of people know can do something like that all by themselves.”

Ayesha has a Muslim background but attended church in Newton at the Congregational United Church of Christ with her host family. In her 10 months here, she attended multiple classes and events to share her story of living in Sierra Leon.

“The church has truly been friendly, and it’s truly a church where everyone is welcome,” Ayesha said.

Ayesha will finish up her work with the program with a trip to Washington, D.C., before heading home to Sierra Leon. Ayesha hopes she has inspired others to host a foreign exchange student, especially from third-world countries.

“It’s an awarding-experience, not just for the parents but for the student as well,” Ayesha said.

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