The Scoop - Fearless
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"Helping others is my passion." - Mitongu Kabasele
For your average high school senior, spring means that college applications give way to midterm exams, prom awaits and graduation looms on the horizon. The whirlwind of responsibilities can be difficult to maintain for most, but Mitongu Kabasele is not your average student.
"It's exciting to know that your work is making a difference," Kabasele said. "I try to keep my mind positive and remember what it is I'm working toward."
Kabasele attends Green B. Trimble Technical High School in Fort Worth, Texas, and will graduate from the school’s Health Science Technology (HST) Program in May. The HST Program prepares students for a career in the health care industry. Kabasele's personal experiences have helped shape her career agenda, experiences that began half a world away in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
Kabasele called the DRC’s capital city, Kinshasa, home for the first six years of her life. Her fondest memories were spent at her grandmother’s convenience store, where she and her siblings could be found playing most afternoons.
Grandmother and granddaughter shared a unique bond. In African societies, parents often name their children after an esteemed family member to show respect and to preserve lineage. An inextricable link was formed on December 25, 1992, the day Kabasele’s parents named their newborn daughter Mitongu in honor of her grandmother.
"Mitongu and her grandmother are similar because they both had big dreams," Kabasele's mother Anphonsine said. "My mother was ambitious and hardworking, and I know she would be very pleased (with Mitongu)."
Kabasele’s grandmother lived in the impoverished African countryside before moving to Kinshasa in 1996. Rural life posed considerable challenges with its lack of available resources, including food, water and health care. However, the DRC’s problems stretched far beyond the countryside, as the Kabasele family would experience firsthand.
Prior to May 1998, Kabasele’s grandmother had never stepped foot inside a traditional hospital, but the family insisted she see a doctor after complaining of sickness. The hospital’s outdated equipment and limited resources revealed a health care system in crises, and nearly six months passed before doctors diagnosed her with lung cancer.
Kabasele’s grandmother eventually lost her battle with cancer in November 1998, and at six years of age Kabasele struggled with the fact that she would never see her best friend again.
“I still think about her regularly, about the type of person she was,” Kabasele said. “She was very determined, always striving for more.She wouldn’t have wanted me to settle for ordinary but to be extraordinary.”
As she grew older, Kabasele used the loss as motivation to make a difference in the lives of others, similar to how her grandmother made a difference in her own. Kabasele had all but decided to study medicine by the time she enrolled as a junior at Trimble Tech in 2008. Little did she know that an unexpected friendship with a classmate named Miguel would confirm the commitment she made to herself several years before.