MIGNON GARÇON – GORA BARHAME

**Who is Gora?**

I was born and raised in Guediawaye, Senegal. I went to school in Mame Maria and then dropped out because I wanted to go live with my father; I wanted to spend time with him because he was split from my mom. While I was there, I learned the Qu’ran but didn’t go to school. I went back and forth between my mom and dad and eventually I stayed in Guediawaye to go back to school full time. When I restarted, I was able to take two years worth of classes in one year. I was always pretty smart. I went to Lycée Seydina Limamou Laye. While there, I had an incident where I didn’t finish my second semester so I was expelled!. My mom begged the administrator to let me back in and he said “if he comes back, I will leave.” My mom was so sad and was obligated to transfer me to Gaston Berger. I became one of the best students and took 3rd place for my BAC cohort. I graduated from the US Embassy and was decorated in front of the guy that kicked me out of Lycée Seydina Limamou Laye . My mom asked him if he recognized me and he said no. My mom reminded him of who I was and she was so proud to be able to have that win; I could see how happy she was.

After that, I went to University Cheikh Anta Diop where I took the normal course of classes up until my Masters. I was in the English Department. In 2012, I attended ESM. I actually was in three schools at the same time: University British, Formation Microscholarship des Ambassades des Etas Unis and ESM. Specifically for ESM, my mom called the administrator and asked if I could go there; my sister was already due to enroll. She told him she didn’t have any money to pay for it but she really wanted me to attend. A man named Amadou Diaw sponsored my entire tuition from first year to Masters. I owe him a lot and will forever be thankful for what he did.

**Tell us about your early professional carer and journey**

Without outing too many names, I will tell you a little about it. I was hired to a company and resigned the next day. Samsung hired me after that and 8 months later I resigned; Birago Diop also hired and after 2 years, I resigned. I say all this because I always believed in my abilities and knew I couldn’t stay somewhere I wasn’t valued.

I created the TWA (see below for more information). I teach as well as do personal coaching (1-on-1). I do some school tours and lead my program, which is all about empowering people. When working with Universities and Enterprises, what I do is offer my first session for free and then administrators would come and see what I am capable of and that usually worked a lot better/faster than giving them my resume. It’s a unique strategy to get their buy-in.

**Personas**

Talking about myself, I say I have “selves.” I am a son, teacher, friend, etc. Each persona has a different story. I left home 2 years ago because home was too easy; I said I have to go out of the house and make it on my own. If I stayed, I would be babied and that wasn’t going to work for me long term.

I have been acting, modeling, and teaching for a long time now. I have acted in the Idoles series since season 2 and I also acted in Belle Mere.

Outside of teaching and coaching, I am a shareholder pf the Granola Cereal House business. I am Director of Sales and Marketing

**Going back to TWA – Teachers With Attitude**
What made me want to start was that I hated how my teachers were teaching. They didn’t do it based on passion, just out of obligation. They didn’t care about the content. Michael Jordan said something important, that it’s not about the # of hours, it’s about what you do while you’re there. For that, that is critical.

My biggest dream is to have my own school. Ironically, I hated school but I have always wanted to have my own school. Maybe it’s because I had my own vision for how to interact with my students. I wanted my teachers to have a certain attitude: not sleep with students, not yell at students, not just be there for the money, etc. The group Niggaz Wit Attitudes encouraged me – I switched it to Teachers With Attitude because I want to influence and change the attitudes of educators! We teach English and soft-skills at TWA and we have plans to expand that to other focus areas.

Throughout the journey, there were two main stages. First is the enthusiasm to bring your dream to reality. This stage is full of fire and excitement. Then you have some challenges. You might be tempted to quit when things don’t go as planned and at this point, you’re no longer in your comfort zone; it’s the fear zone. You start to have doubts. For me, I decided to find good people to work with. I went back to my high school and find people I believed would align with my vision. My vision is to keep the students in the classroom. They’re adults and have responsibilities so they cannot always be there. So I’m there to remind them of their “why.” I tell them if they quit right now, they’ll regret it later.

TWA is a system – a network. We want to change the game.

My former institution, ESM, wants me to tell my success story. For me, it’s all about where I come from. When I think about my early experience with school, I think of what Albert Einstein said: “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” I knew I had to create my own entrepreneurial path to success and that’s my “success story.”

**Who are your students?**

My students range from elementary school kids, high schoolers, older ladies and gentlemen, and corporate folks. We have several programs for each demographic and cater to their needs. We also have in-home classes as well as online formats. We cater to everyone. We recognize that not everyone is going to be able to work with the typical workweek format so we remain flexible to have a larger audience reach.

We also partner with schools and companies to bring the content in-house. A new program we’re getting ready to launch is that exclusive partnership with corporations.

**Importance of learning English in today’s global climate**

Before, people would study English because they wanted to travel. Today, things are different. Even if you’re not traveling, foreigners are coming to Senegal. When they arrive, you want to be able to communicate with them. For example, if you work at a corporation and English-speaking partners arrive, if you’re the person who speaks English at that enterprise, you become that much more valuable to the company. It is a differentiator. Sooner or later, people will need to learn to speak it. It remains the most common official language in the world and facilitates cross-country communication and travel, especially in business.

**Barriers for advancement in Senegal**

A few things come to mind:

Not believing in themselves – some people have skills and have passion but they grasp onto the jobs that they have because they have familial responsibilities;
Family – family is a burden in Senegal. They hate what they do but they feel stuck; My mom didn’t know that you could apply for jobs online, she always said I was sleeping too much. My first job was paying me 150K CFA and she was like “that’s it?!” and from there, I progressed
Not knowing what we get ourselves into – we don’t do research or have any idea of what we want to do; we don’t have vision. They give up easily. I’m not 100% on any of the things I am doing. My time is split across my activities. But I don’t give up on any of them. I know that all of those things can go on their own but I prioritize.
Learning to say no – if I can’t do something, I say no.
Superiority Complex – no respect for people! – banking example. It’s your money! If you have a small bank account, they treat you like shit.
Workplaces don’t value their employees – not respecting agreements; If you don’t respect me, I just leave you and make it easy for both of us.
Sokhor – people are mean! There are people who just don’t want what’s best for you.

**Mignon Maman**

That’s my baby!! We are 11 in the family so it’s a competition. She doesn’t have enough love for all of us so I push all of them aside and take that top position. I call her all the time and make myself present. We never had that type of relationship where we talked about things and didn’t have barriers. But growing up and learning and reading, I realized this woman is BAE, I have to make her happy.

I realized she sacrificed a lot for us. She didn’t buy gold or clothes, she didn’t go anywhere. Whatever she has it’s for us. One thing I would recall is if she was ever upset, I would dance for her. Moma rewal. I say crazy things just to hear her voice. Seeing her happy makes her happy. She’s got my back and I have hers! She’s my best friend.

May Allah give her long life!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at WordPress.com.
%d bloggers like this: