Nigerian Hofstra University graduate speaks on her homeland's crisis

Hofstra Senior Koro Koroye photographed at the campus

Hofstra Senior Koro Koroye photographed at the campus on Tuesday, May 13, 2014. Koro, a native of Nigeria who is graduating with an MFA in creative writing, turned to poetry to express her feelings about the kidnapped girls in her native country. (Credit: Newsday / Alejandra Villa)

Koro Koroye, an international student from Nigeria, graduates today with a heavy heart.

While she's proud of her achievements -- a master of fine arts in creative writing from Hofstra University -- the aspiring poet and professor has equally strong feelings about more than 270 schoolgirls held captive in her homeland by terrorists who are against the education of girls and women, among other things.

"These girls were doing everything they were supposed to do," said Koroye, 23, of Lagos. "It is just devastating. It makes me very sad because it keeps pushing us deeper and deeper into this negative hole."

Koroye is among the more than 2,000 students who will receive graduate and undergraduate degrees from the Hempstead university. As she reflects on her time at Hofstra and on Long Island, she is acutely aware of the incongruity between her pursuit of higher education here and the tragic circumstances in Nigeria.

More than a month ago, Boko Haram Islamist militants abducted girls from a school in Borno state.

The Nigerian government has been criticized by some for its slow response to the kidnappings. The conflict has been well-publicized in recent weeks as pressure to find and free the girls has gained momentum among the international community, including offers of assistance from Britain and the United States.

First lady Michelle Obama and scores of celebrities, including Angelina Jolie, are among those supporting a social media campaign under the Twitter tag #BringBackOurGirls.

"It puts Nigeria in such a horrible light, because it seems like we don't even know how to handle our own country," Koroye said.

Koroye came to Hofstra in 2008. She completed her undergraduate degree in creative writing and went right into the master's program.

She found the school through a search of New York colleges on the College Board's website. About 3 percent of Hofstra's undergraduate population is from outside the United States, representing 54 countries. Koroye said she knows of only two other students at the school who are from Nigeria.

She and her sister, who attends college in Boston, are among the few Nigerian students who are able to afford to come to the United States for their education. Their mother is a real estate developer and their father is an accountant.

Koroye will return to Nigeria for a few weeks before she begins her job working with students in the Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth, a summer program offered at The Dwight School in Manhattan.

She plans to use her Hofstra degree to pursue her passion for poetry and spoken word performance in New York City. She will go on for a doctoral degree to become a professor and hopes to shape the education of young girls, whether it be in this country or in Nigeria.

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