Ex-homeless man earns two degrees

  • June 27, 2009

By Lanz Christian-Banes
Staff Writer


Nine years ago, Samuel Odwalu Mayson found himself without a place to go.

"I slept in my car," said the 45-year-old Liberian native, who became homeless after separating from his wife.

But last week marked a new beginning for Mayson, who proudly graduated from California State University, East Bay in Hayward with degrees in finance and accounting.

"This guy has a drive," said Elvira DeLeon, executive director of the Global Center for Success on Mare Island.
Mayson credits much of his success to the Global Center and the Vallejo Christian Help Center.

"They were doing almost everything for me," Mayson said.

He immigrated to the United States in 1997 and worked as an aircraft technician for TWA in St. Louis until he was laid off in 2000.

He joined his wife in Vallejo, but was left out on the street when the two separated.

Without direction, Mayson found himself at the Christian Help Center, the city's sole homeless shelter.

"I walked in that door on Jan. 5, 2001," Mayson said.

Administrators of the Christian Help Center and the Global Center, who work closely together, guided Mayson back onto his feet.

"We referred him ... to Michael's Transportation Services, and he got a job there," DeLeon said.

The Global Center for Success is a social services organization for homeless, marginalized and under-served people, offering skill training, case management and spiritual support among its services.

The organization held a job and resource fair earlier this year and hopes to have another in September.

DeLeon and Christian Help Center members helped Mayson go back to school, starting at Solano Community College in 2004.

In 2007, Mayson transferred to Cal State East Bay, where he was a double major in finance and accounting.
He graduated last week.

Next year, Mayson wants to take his certified public accountant exam and go back to school to get his master's degree in business administration.
He hopes to use his skills to give back to the Christian Help Center and the Global Center for Success.

The Global Center has seen a large jump in the number of people requesting its services as the economy soured, DeLeon said.
In May 2008, the center had 25 clients. This May, the center had 103.

"It's really tough," DeLeon said.

The Christian Help Center and the Global Center for Success help all, but go out of their way when it comes to motivated people who want to be successful-- such as Mayson.

"He wanted it," DeLeon said.

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California State University, East Bay is the San Francisco East Bay Area's high-access public university of choice. CSUEB serves the region with campuses in Hayward and Concord, a professional development center in Oakland, and an innovative online campus. With an enrollment of more than 14,000, the University offers a nationally recognized freshman year experience, award-winning curriculum, personalized instruction, and expert faculty. Students choose from among more than 100 professionally focused fields of study for which the University confers bachelor's and master's degrees, as well as an Ed.D. in education. Named a "Best in the West" college, as well as a Best Business School, by the influential Princeton Review, Cal State East Bay is among the region's foremost producers of teachers, business professionals and entrepreneurs, public administrators, health professionals, literary and performing artists, and science and math graduates.

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