Dominic

San Francisco State, Class of 2007
Software Engineer at OpenDNS (now part of Cisco)
Carlmont High School 1999

"We not only received scholarships to further our education, but we also gained an extended family.” To escape the violent civil war in Sierra Leone, Dominic’s mother sent him and his brother to live in East Palo Alto when he was 11 years old. “When my brother and I immigrated to the States, we left behind our mother, grandmother, family, and friends."



Born in Sierra Leone, Dominic lived there with his mother and brother until he was 11 years old.  Afraid for the safety of her boys during the violent civil war, his mom decided it was too dangerous and sent Dominic and his brother to live with his father in East Palo Alto. Moving to a new school, or city can be difficult, but it can be especially tough when it is to a new country.  It was difficult to adjust to life in East Palo Alto. Dominic and his brother were often teased, bullied, and made fun of because of their accent and culture.  

Keeping his eyes on the prize, Dominic graduated from Carlmont High School and attended San Francisco State to pursue a degree in Computer Science. While attending school, Dominic worked 20 hours a week at the SF State Library IT Department. After receiving his Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science, Dominic continued his employment at SF State and worked multiple jobs in the IT industry. In 2011, he was able to finally bring his mother to the US after being apart for more than 10 years. Dominic now works as a software engineer at OpenDNS (now a part of Cisco).

“As a recipient of the POE scholarship I am very grateful, but I am most grateful for the emotional support of Jerry Smallwood and the rest of the extended Smallwood family.  Jerry and the POE family not only supported my brother and I monetarily (during school and times of hardship), but also opened their home to us.  When my brother and I immigrated to the States, we left behind our mother, grandmother, family, and friends. However, we not only received scholarships to further our education, but we also gained an extended family. We are lucky to spend various holidays with Jerry Smallwood and her family. As they say it takes a village to raise a child, you have definitely helped me become the person I am today. Thank you Jerry Smallwood for believing in me and my brother, supporting us, and being our surrogate-grandmother.”


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