The Road Less Taken
Turmoil in his home country gives IT student new opportunities
Madison Yonly described his home country of Liberia in the ‘90s as “a bad situation.” It’s an understated description of the political uprising that ushered in the decade and left the Ivory Coast country fractured and chaotic.
His family — Mom and Dad, six brothers, six sisters and three nieces and nephews — scattered for safety and were separated for years. But by 2008, they were together again, living under a single roof in New Jersey, thanks to relocation assistance from the United Nations and its Family Reunion program.
It’s the kind of experience that renders stories about earning an associate degree kind of trivial. But for Yonly, who will soon become a Cisco Certified Network Professional, that experience gave him a deep sense of gratitude.
“My life is going in the direction I had hoped,” Yonly, 35, said. “I can’t be thankful enough.”
Out of the chaos came an opportunity he might otherwise never have had. Yonly found himself in a new country, surrounded by new people, new experiences and seemingly limitless opportunities.
“When I was growing up, I was fascinated by technology and where it was headed. I was hoping that one day I could work as a systems administrator,” he said. “I just wanted to work in IT. Back home, I didn’t have the opportunity or the money.”
Not long after the family settled in New Jersey, Yonly began strategizing his education. He started by enrolling in the computer science program at Hudson County Community College in New Jersey in 2012.
“It was all theory, theory, theory,” he said. “I wanted to do something hands-on.”
He switched gears and signed up for classes at a for-profit school, completed a certificate and began working in the field.
“My eyes started opening to different things,” Yonly said. “I wanted to tour the United States and see what it was like to live in other places.”
He and his girlfriend traveled to and lived in different cities until 2020, when they landed in Cleveland, where Yonly’s girlfriend had family. One day at church, a plan emerged when a friend, originally from Nigeria, told him about Cuyahoga Community College (Tri-C®).
“They offer pretty good training over there,” his friend said.
Yonly got on his computer, Googled “Tri-C” and was immediately sold. It was as if everything had led to this moment. Here was just what he wanted: quick, affordable, hands-on training in a city where he felt safe and comfortable.
“I jumped right on it,” he said.
In addition to a just-right program, Yonly got personalized assistance, individualized attention from his teachers and scholarship money to pay for school. To his mind, it was a dream come true.
“I can’t imagine going from where I came from to where I am at. Every time I think about it, it brings tears to my eyes,” he said.
As he finishes his courses, Yonly is working as a contract support engineer for the Cleveland Clinic through Tech Mahindra. He lives in Cleveland with his wife and 4-year-old daughter.
His scholarship through the Tri-C Foundation has been critical, he said. He will graduate with no college loan debt.
“I really bless God for this,” he said. “It’s a life-changing story for me. It wouldn’t have happened if it hadn’t been for Tri-C."