Patterson Alumnus Clovis Ballet Gniguessi, Class of 2008, his wife Melissa, his 13-month-old daughter Joyce, and his sister-in-law Jahel, recently vacationed at The Patterson School Campus for a month, leasing the first floor Wiese Hall former Dorm Parent apartment. Melissa and Jahel were excited to actually see “this little school in NC” that Clovis had told them so much about—and to finally meet “Mama (Janet) Spoon,” his NC “mother” and favorite Librarian. Of course he was also anxious to show off his beautiful daughter! Clovis currently works from home (online) with Walmart, an arrangement which made the visit possible.
Clovis, Melissa, and Jahel are all from the Central Africa Republic (CAR). Clovis came to Patterson in February 2007 as a Bulldog Prep Basketball Athlete (being 6 ft. 8 in. tall), recruited by Eugene Pelema of MD, who had brought him to the US from Cameroon where his family had fled for safety in in 2002. Clovis and his family of six are of the Yakoma tribe and Christians, two groups which had been blamed for the 2001 attempt on the life of President Ange Patasse, who was of the Sara tribe and a Muslim. Therefore, the government of the CAR was trying to kill all males of his tribe and all male Christians. The soldiers did not kill women, but they beat and raped them. They found the Gniguessi Family three times in CAR, once in Zaire, and twice, even in Cameroon, and additionally broke the younger sister’s foot in 2004. They kidnapped his father in December 2008, while Clovis was attending Tyler College in Texas, where he had received a basketball scholarship.
The kidnapping and torture of his father (who was finally released for $2,000) was discouraging and greatly interrupted Clovis’ college education, but his faith nourished his perseverance, and he returned to NC and finished his degree in Business Administration at Fayetteville State University in May 2013.
While a Patterson student, Clovis received asylum status from the US office of Immigration (ICE). Clovis credits The Patterson School with saving his life, both literally and figuratively. Coming to Patterson from Africa made him safe from those who had vowed to kill him and the other males in his family. His Patterson education gave him opportunity to earn a college degree.
Having endured so much and having been so blessed, Clovis’ thoughts and heart turn toward the CAR refugee children and youth in Cameroon and other poor countries in Africa. These countries have few schools, and few families can afford them. There are those in Cameroon who attempt to persuade the refugees to join Islam and become crooks and fighters. Clovis and friends have started a foundation to help educate, feed and protect these refugees, as well as to provide clean water in rural villages and to provide health care. His ultimate dream is to provide elementary schooling in Africa for the poor children, and to partner with Patterson School Foundation to bring them to the NC Campus and provide the secondary training so that these current refugees can move on to college and return to CAR to rebuild CAR, and other African nations. Clovis’ foundation is called The Sango Center, and you can read more at www.sangocenter.org.