Cultural Tour: Perspectives From Kenya

Co-Written By: Sydney Oyatta and Katelyn Gourley, Students

The diversity of a university is its key to rich perspective. At Gannon University, our global students cultivate a thriving community of intellects by diluting biases and prejudices and broadening our understanding of cultural traditions, values and influences.

At the same time, the perspectives our global students bring in are concurrently sharpened by their academic experiences. That perspective is never lost, but can be traced within every footprint our global students leave upon graduation. 

Sydney Oyatta

Sydney Oyatta, computer and information science major, hosts a talk show on Gannon’s 90.5 WERG.

As it turns out, some of this perspective was brought from a small Luo tribe in Kokal, Kenya with junior Sydney Oyatta, a student whose passage to education involved nothing short of difficulty. 

When Oyatta’s mother was confronted by a battle with alcoholism, his grandmother took him to live in a small village called Oyugis along with his cousins, Neville and Cynthia. Oyatta described the area as more poverty-stricken. “We could not afford clothes, shoes or even food, but my grandmother made sure we got our education and had a roof over our heads,” he said. 

As his grandmother aged, Oyatta and his cousins went to live with his Uncle David and his wife. It was here that the drive for knowledge was first instilled within Oyatta. 

“At this point I had no idea my life would change drastically. David and his wife were both successful lawyers and resided in Karen, a very lavish neighborhood in Nairobi, Kenya,” Oyatta recalls. “Their main aim was to make sure we got a sufficient amount of education in order to prosper. This was relatively hard since none of us spoke an ounce of English. My uncle decided to hire a tutor who would come and teach me English every single day. Was it tough? Yes, but I persisted.”

“I came from a culture that is big on community, so when I saw Gannon was very involved in the Erie community, I knew it was where I wanted to be.”

At age six Oyatta began school, quickly advancing to become top in his class. As he prepared to graduate from a prestigious high school, Peponi School in Ruiru, Kenya, Oyatta completed a test for his General Certificate of Secondary Education. When the results came in, Oyatta found himself staring at a slew of mortifying grades. “How was I getting into college? How would I travel to America? All these questions ran through my brain like a pneumatic drill,” he said.

As he applied to college, Oyatta became dispirited by the amount of rejection letters he received. Remembering the words of his uncle, “Sydney, education is the key to success. Don’t take it for granted,” Oyatta chose to look past each denial and continued his efforts until he landed on Gannon University. He was immediately drawn in. “I came from a culture that is big on community, so when I saw Gannon was very involved in the Erie community, I knew it was where I wanted to be,” he said. “And by God’s grace I was accepted.”

Now Oyatta is using his time as a computer and information science major at Gannon to share his unique perspective with others, finding recent success in his 90.5 WERG radio show, “Uzuri wa Africa,” or “The Beauty of Africa.” This award-winning show tells of African traditions, music and culture while featuring interviews with students from the global community. Oyatta hopes to take this perspective with him on an upcoming trip to Spain, broadening the scope of his reach even further. 

Driven to inspire a culturally rich community, Oyatta plans to earn a master’s degree and become an American citizen to work in the very community that helped shape him. 

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