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Fulfilling Their Dreams Across Continents

Maureen Mbanga and Ngambela Zulu


When Maureen Mbanga and Ngambela Zulu arrived for the first day of classes in August 2022, they were not only getting used to college life, they were acclimating to living in the U.S., 7,500 miles from their homes in Zambia, in Southern Africa. International students who were chosen to attend SUNY Schenectady through the Joan R. Dembinski ’10 Study Abroad Scholarship and African Education Program, Maureen and Ngambela quickly began excelling in their classes and becoming involved in campus life.

Maureen, a Business Administration major, was elected as the Student Trustee, serving on the Board of Trustees as the voice of the student body. A member of Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society, this spring she was chosen for the All-New York Academic Team. She was also a member of the Student Activities Board, Budget and Finance Committee, and she volunteers at the City Mission.

After graduation, Maureen plans to work in the business or accounting field before she transfers to pursue her bachelor’s degree in Accounting.

“SUNY Schenectady is a gateway for me,” Maureen said. “The years I have spent here have transformed me into someone I never imagined. I am who I am today because of this college. I learned how to be independent and how to be a leader at the same time. Being the first generation to graduate is not an easy thing, but SUNY Schenectady made it possible for me and I will forever be grateful.”

Ngambela, a Culinary Arts major, recently finished an exciting internship at the Kentucky Derby. Last month, he joined with Dr. Steady Moono, College President, as a guest chef, demonstrating how to prepare Zambian cuisine to fellow students, staff, faculty, and community members. Ngambela has been a familiar face to hungry crowds throughout the Capital Region, as he worked on the Food Truck at the popular Schenectady Soup Stroll and at the Empire State Plaza. Last semester, Ngambela was an intern at Walt Disney World® Resort in Orlando, Fla., cooking at various locations with chefs from around the world.

After he graduates, Ngambela plans to gain more experience in the restaurant industry. His goal is to open a restaurant in Zambia and “provide good and healthy meals for every age group and accommodate special needs such as allergies and those who are vegan.”

My dream goal was to acquire the best skills and knowledge in the food industry and become a professional chef because my passion for cooking and serving others makes me happy,” Ngambela shared. “SUNY Schenectady made my dream come true by being the roadmap. Not only was I given the best skills, but I was also given real-life experience in classes like Classical Cuisine, cooking delicious meals for the Casola Dining Room. Thank you SUNY Schenectady, my second home. I cannot thank you enough for the love and care I was given.”