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Inspiring graduate: Ariol Joseph

Ariol Joseph

When Ariol Joseph graduates this month, he will accomplish a dream that began more than two decades ago and thousands of miles away.

“My words will never be enough to describe the amount of adversity that I have faced, so let me say it was not an easy road to earn my bachelor’s degree at UIC,” said Joseph, a senior in mechanical and industrial engineering. “But I don’t let the challenges of life stop me.”

Originally from Haiti, Joseph started his undergraduate studies there twice, but each time he had to stop — once because of financial challenges and again after the catastrophic 2010 earthquake.

“I quit college twice in my country because of reasons that were beyond me, and I wanted to show my loved ones that if you are determined to succeed, nothing can stop you,” he said.

Joseph moved to Chicago in 2012 to join relatives in the U.S. and create more opportunities for himself and his family after the 7.0-magnitude earthquake devastated the country.

“Haiti was hit really hard and it was very difficult there, and with the earthquake, it was harder and harder,” he said. “It was a great opportunity to move from Haiti to Chicago, so that was a new start and I think there was better opportunity over here.”

Still, he found new challenges moving to Chicago, including not knowing the language. A relative helped him find support to learn English, and then he began his undergraduate studies again, eventually joining UIC in 2019.

“I started as a level 1 ESL student at a church on 45th Street and Ashland Avenue,” he said. “Through that, I made my way to Richard Daley J. College through a program called the Gateway Program, and from there, I received my associate degree and received a transfer for UIC. I had always heard about UIC as a great school.”

While working toward his associate and bachelor’s degrees, Joseph also worked two jobs to support his family. He worked overnight at one Chicago hotel from 3 to 11 p.m., then at another hotel from 11:30 p.m. to 7:30 a.m.

“After that I had to go to my classes,” he said. “That was pretty hard. I had to balance school, work and family.”

Joseph hopes that in watching their father work so hard to attain his degree, his children will value their own education.

“I am the first in my family to go to college, and I think that will serve my children as an example moving forward because I was fighting for them to show them that no matter the circumstances, you can still achieve great things,” he said.

Throughout his winding path to his bachelor’s degree, Joseph never wavered on his choice to pursue engineering.

“Math is my passion, and being an engineer, you have to deal with a lot math, and that is why I chose it,” he said. “It was also my dream when I was back home, but I could not afford the engineering school. So, when I came over here, I had the opportunity, so I went for it.”

After graduation, Joseph plans to find a job in engineering and pursue a master’s degree in math in the future.

 “I feel like I have something inside of me that is not at the top still, so I’ll go for it,” he said. “You only fail when you stop trying. You have to keep moving forward.”