My father and uncle taught me to follow my heart

Nicholas Cooper of U.S. Bank (right) presenting Molubah Seley with his certificate at the 2017 Graduation Celebration (Travis Lee/MSR News)

Molubah Seley is a 2017 Cecil E. Newman Scholarship recipient. His scholarship-winning essay appears below.

“I’m not mad, just disappointed.” If you’ve ever had someone say those words to you, you’ll recall the hurt in letting them down. Dealing with one person is tough; how about your entire family, church and community?

I’ve been through the furnace of failure; I haven’t seen my mother in 12 years, and I’ve been through civil war. Facing adversity has been part of my life. It might be hard to imagine your entire community looking down on you, but for me it’s the biggest hurdle I’ve overcome. Through it all, my father and uncle have been supportive.


My father taught me too to stand up for what is right — no matter the consequences. My uncle taught me to see gold when the rest of the world sees dust.


Though I come from a war-torn country, there has always been a “divinely destined” path for me. The Seley family is well-known in the Liberian community because of the number of church leaders that have come from our family for generations. This was my predestined path in life. I was supposed to carry the torch.

At a young age, I was my uncle’s apprentice, following his footsteps and learning the Gospel. In the U.S., the church was my home; I was seen as a prodigy and opportunities were given to me to lead prayers, church youth council, and even preach.

Bishops anointed me saying “You are called by God,” and the Liberian community supported me. This was a breakthrough in my life because it kept me on track for all things great. I saw it as an honor; however, I debated with myself every night about my future. Though my uncle is very religious, he told me to follow my heart.

Molubah Seley

This debate became more complex as I fell in love studying a 3.3-pound organ that drives curiosity and creates our reality through billions of neurons connected by trillions of synapses. My obsession grew as I probed for understanding and researched neuroscience.

Never did I think I would consider a career outside of the church, but my soul craved more exposure to neuroscience. It was a painful process, but I dropped the torch, telling my family, church and community that even though I love God, I wanted a different path for my life.

Honestly, it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done; it felt like I was choosing between Christ and science. My father supported my decision and told me to continue to strive for greatness. He also made it clear that education is the key and told me to “learn one new thing a day, multiply that by a week, and you will know seven new things in a week. Do this for a year and you’ll know 365 new things.”

I took his advice and ran with it as a philosophy to be used in my daily life. I became a new person and my approach and mentality towards learning later changed.

From that time forward, I have always looked to improve myself. In the years following, I started a science club, medical club, and helped to start a student advisory board for a local clinic.

Abandoning my “destiny” and dealing with the consequences has made me who I am. My uncle and father always supported me wholeheartedly. They believed in me and instilled within me values that are vital to life.

My father taught me too to stand up for what is right — no matter the consequences. My uncle taught me to see gold when the rest of the world sees dust. Due to their stewardship, I’ve grown to be the young man I am today. I’ve been instilled with the knowledge and life skills to contribute to society and respond to the needs of an ever-changing world.

I know that they will be proud when they see me speaking at graduation, furthering my education at Carleton College and pursuing a career as a neurosurgeon.


For a recap/photos from the 2017 Graduation Celebration, go here.

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