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From West Africa to BOCES: One student's mission to heal his hometown


May 13, 2024

From West Africa to BOCES: One student’s mission to heal his hometown

When Kokou Magnon left his home in West Africa to come to the United States, a lifelong dream came true.

“Back home, everybody wanted to come to America to have that experience,” said the  33-year-old OCM BOCES Practical Nursing student. “As little kids, we put American flags in our rooms, and we just loved America.”

Kokou Magnon

Growing up in the West African country of Togo, in the capital city of Lomé, Magnon was responsible for taking his father, who is blind, to get medical checkups—if they were lucky enough to find healthcare.

That help came in the form of sporadic visits from medical boats, which offered everything from general care to surgery. If no visiting doctors or nurses were available, there was no treatment.

“You can still die from malaria down there or even just a cut on your finger,” Magnon says.

The care and compassionate treatment his father received from healthcare workers inspired his goal to move to the United States and study medicine. Eventually, he plans to return to his hometown in West Africa to provide better healthcare for its residents.

Magnon started that journey in 2016 when he arrived in New York City. He quickly became immersed in a culture that was completely foreign to him.

“You come here with no family and you know nothing,” he said. “You have to start everything over, learn a new language and culture, and how Americans do their things.”

Magnon, whose native language is French, began learning English. He then enrolled in a Certified Nursing Assistant program. While earning his CNA, he worked in a nursing home in The Bronx and as a home health aid. 

When he started looking for a  Licensed Practical Nursing program, Magnon found it challenging to find an affordable one in New York City. That’s when he turned to his friend, who lived in Syracuse and learned about OCM BOCES’ Practical Nursing program. 

“Luckily, I got accepted into the program,” he said. “OCM BOCES has an amazing team here,  from the teachers to the directors.”

Magnon’s teacher, Carol Vigliotti, says Magnon has done exceptionally well in the program. He tutors other students and is on track to graduate in August 2024.

“Kokou is very caring and compassionate,” she said. “He supports his peers when they are going through a rough time and also when they experience something positive. He even gave a few students a bouquet of flowers. He’s also helpful and generous with his time and talent.”

After graduation, Magnon plans to take a year off to work as an LPN before continuing his education through a Registered Nurse program in Syracuse.

Eventually, he hopes to return to Lomé and start a medical practice to provide quality healthcare for friends, family, neighbors, and strangers. 

“I want to be part of that team,” he says, “to build a healthcare system back home to help people with no or little cost. “