Born in Haiti, when Kattelyne was just three years old, she and her sisters immigrated to the United States to join their parents who had arrived two years earlier.
Life was difficult for the family of six. Poverty stricken at the time, the stress took a toll on Kattelyne’s father, who became physically and emotionally abusive, targeting Kattelyne and two of her sisters. Kattelyne and her siblings suffered years of abuse and malnutrition, with neighbors and teachers turning a blind eye.
This abuse and a language barrier also made school a challenge. Kattelyne struggled to fit in and had difficulty learning. These challenges were compounded by daily reminders by her abusive father that she would not amount to anything.
“Looking back, I don’t know how we survived,” said Kattelyne. “We were so small and fragile, but it was really the emotional abuse that held the greatest risk. We came from a culture in which children are to be seen and not heard, and where women don’t often work outside the home. So, it was easy to believe my father when he said we would be failures.”
Yet, remarkably, Kattelyne and her sisters did survive and were fiercely determined to break the cycle.
“Through perseverance, conviction, and a thirst for knowledge, all three of us learned the English language and custom of America,” said Kattelyne proudly. “We are all productive members of society. We have all taught our own children to value education and embrace a strong work ethic.”
In 2009, Kattelyne founded the Gift of Decorous, a foundation that provides counseling, guidance and shelter to children who are abused and neglected. And, just last year, Kattelyne took her first step in realizing her dream by enrolling at National American University.
“My nieces are nurses and it’s long been my dream to be a nurse. We see it as a way to heal the sick and listen to the unheard (patients who are being abused by a family member),” explained Kattelyne. “We bring an element to our craft by relating to the eyes of the broken.”
Being a nurse certainly does seem to be Kattelyne’s calling. Recently, she was recognized for academic achievement and persistence, receiving the NAU Foundation’s Academic Excellence Scholarship, sponsored by Norton Norris, Inc. Academic Excellence Scholarships are awarded to students who are doing exceptionally well in school – Kattelyne is earning a 4.0.
“Kattelyne’s story is a great reminder of why we work in higher education,” said Dr. Jean Norris, Managing Partner for Norton Norris, Inc., which provides training and consultation to university admissions teams.
“I was so moved by Kattelyne’s story that I shared it with my full team. We are inspired by her journey and triumph, and humbled that our contribution could in any way support such an inspiring woman.”
“Kattelyne is without a doubt one of the most intensely driven and hardworking students that I have ever encountered at National American University,” wrote Jeremy Rieck, one of Kattelyne’s professors. “I have watched Kattelyne overcome tremendous challenges to become the outstanding student she is today.”
Ultimately, Kattelyne hopes be a nurse in clinical research where she can contribute to the research and cure for Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and other diseases now deemed incurable.
NAU and the NAU Foundation, along with our charitable partner, Norton Norris, Inc., are proud to be playing a supportive role in Kattelyne’s journey.
Although the American Dream was not immediately realized for Kattelyne, her own tenacity has brought it into clear focus. She is living it and sharing that same dream with those she has helped along the way.
About the author:
Tamie Hopp is the Director of Alumni & Foundation Services for National American University. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information on alumni relations, visit nauconnect.com. Information about the NAU Foundation can be found at: naufoundation.org.