LAKELAND, Fla. (WFLA) – Education is at the core of Lydia Pogu and Joy Bishara’s journey thus far.
They were school girls in Chibok, Nigeria when they were kidnapped by Boko Haram, a group designated as a “foreign terrorist organization,” along with nearly 300 other girls. Many girls are still in the group’s custody.
Boko Haram translates to “Western education is forbidden,” according to the U.S. government.
They both jumped out of the trucks that were driving them away, risking their lives rather than staying with their captors.
They were given the opportunity to come to America after their escape. After some consideration, they moved to Virginia for their freshman year and graduated from a high school in Oregon.
Then, they received a scholarship to attend Southeastern University in Lakeland. They received their bachelors degrees last year.
Pogu has a bachelor’s degree in legal studies while Bishara has one in social work.
They both stayed another year – earning their master’s degrees. Friday is graduation day again.
“It’s kind of like, sad – or excited. It’s just a lot of mix of emotions – and anxious, and not knowing where I’m going next and all of that,” said Bishara.
Pogu and Bishara both have dreams of starting non-profit organizations.
“As long as I’m making a difference, it makes me happy because I want to be able to give out what people have done in my life to other people,” said Pogu, who earned her masters in human services administration.
Bishara, who is receiving a master’s degree in social work, plans to help those still impacted by Boko Haram.
“Currently my non-profit name is ‘Destiny Prevails,’” she said.
The women say they visit Nigeria and assume Boko Haram members know who they are, since they have told their story to local and national media outlets.
“Personally I’m not so scared or, like, living my life in fear or anything. I still go back home. I still visit the Chibok area. I still do things. I do them carefully,” said Bishara.
Bishara is applying to social work jobs at hospitals in the Tampa area and in Charleston, South Carolina.
Pogu plans to attend law school next spring in Florida or Virginia.
First, she has a speech to make. She will be the student speaker at the graduation ceremony.
“I was like, heck yes! I will take it. It’s a really big accomplishment, it’s a big honor,” she said. “My speech is incorporated with so many things – my story and I also added how my story has made me become the woman I am.”
The graduation ceremony is Friday evening.