Most Georgia State students have not had to endure an upbringing in a war-torn nation or a career threatening injury but sophomore Aiah Yobah has survived both.
Many 20-somethings of today have childhood memories filled with viewings of Power Rangers and time spent playing little league baseball or videogames.
“The war is all I really remember,” Yobah said.
Yobah was born in 1990 in Sierra Leone—just a year before a civil war that lasted over a decade kicked off.
“I didn’t even get to enjoy the country,” he said. “We had to move from city to city to dodge the war zones.”
What makes Yobah’s tale even more interesting is the fact that often times his family was forced to part ways. Yobah is the youngest of five siblings. Rather than waiting for the war to come to an end, he said his father moved to America in order to save up enough money to get his children out of Sierra Leone. Yobah, his two brothers and his two sisters spent seven long years bouncing between relatives and family friends.
“When my dad left we all couldn’t live with the same relative because it would be to much for one person to handle,” he said. “We had to split up.”
After enduring setbacks and struggles in the U.S., Yobah’s father finally saved up enough money to send for his kids.
“It was exciting because you hear so much about America,” Yobah said. “I was very excited and it was a wonderful feeling.”
Yobah said he didn’t fully understand the gravity of the situation while he was over in Sierra Leone.
“It’s different when you are living it,” he said. “You just kind of adapt to it and not think much of it. In retrospect, it’s like, ‘wow, I can’t believe I did that.’”
The U.S. offered Yobah the type of education that was virtually impossible in Sierra Leone. In fact, he said that the war prevented him from even stepping foot into school at times.
“There were large periods of time where I didn’t go to school,” Yobah said of his time in Sierra Leone. “It was difficult. There were times where I would start a grade then not finish because we would have to stop going to school. We had to repeat some grades over and over again.”
Despite this experience, Yobah said he still didn’t fully appreciate the value of a good education. Yobah was quite the prep athlete. While attending Tallulah Falls School—a private boarding school in North Georgia—he played soccer, basketball and ran track. Yobah said up until a life changing injury, he placed more importance on athletics than school.
“My thing was, ‘as long as I passed,’” Yobah said of his attitude towards academics, “until 11th grade year when I tore my ACL. That’s when I had to mature and rethink life.”
Not only did Yobah suffer an injury that put his athletic pursuits on hold, but he lost his health insurance shortly after, which made impossible for him and his family to afford the expensive rehab therapy that many athletes receive.
“At that moment it was devastating,” Yobah said. “It was one of the most depressing moments of my life.”
Yobah said ever since this incident he has taken school more seriously. He is currently a member of the Georgia State Honors College and boasts a 3.83 GPA.
Yobah said all of his past experiences have made him stronger and he plans to return to Sierra Leone and make a difference in the nation that birthed him.