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A graphic design student’s story of strength in the face of loss

By: Asia Miller

Emmanuel Bello is working tirelessly to curate his future. And to all those looking on, the intricate pieces of Bello’s life seem to be coming together for his good. The Lagos, Nigeria, native successfully completed his undergraduate career by studying at Florida A&M University in the School of Journalism and Graphic Communication for two semesters. Currently, FAMU and the Federal University of Technology, Akure (FUTA) have a memorandum of agreement in which students who participate then study at FAMU.

Bello graduated with a degree in textile design in May 2019 at the age of 23. He said that he participated in the FAMU-FUTA program because FAMU is recognized as the best historically black college or university (HBCU) in America.

“My experience has been all-around awesome with the sense of community and love I’ve been shown,” he said. “Being at an HBCU and the weather makes me feel at home.”

Still, Bello said relating to people was his toughest challenge and a culture shock. He couldn’t quite understand why his classroom connections didn’t immediately translate to personal relationships.

“As time went on I started to understand how it was and how they relate and now I’ve made a few friends,” he said.

One of those friends is Stanley Wall Jr., a senior graphic design student from Panama City, Florida. Wall said Bello might be “one of the most genuine people” he’s interacted with.

“Thats gonna translate well into his future profession because if people gravitate toward you you’re always going to be of good use,” Wall said.

In addition to his personal skills, Bello now has public relations, textile and graphic design skills to apply to his future career. He plans to begin graduate school in the fall studying global security and international affairs.

“I would love to design products that solve environmental problems in the world,” he said.

Bello studied under Anosh Gill, director of SJGC’s graphic design program, and said the professor pushed him to his creative limits.

“He’s always making sure he gets the best out of you. I did some things I didn’t even know I could do [in graphic design],” he said.

Bello counted SJGC Dean Ferrier, Professor Ansley Simmons and Internships Coordinator Ranata Hughes as great support on his road to graduation. Hughes would take no credit, and said she simply helped Emmanuel explore his options.

"Emmanuel is a wonderful young man,” she said. “One very unique thing about Emmanuel is he always focuses on the silver-lining of a storm. He never allows himself to be defeated."

Two months before Emmanuel Bello completed his final undergraduate semester, the unthinkable happened. His mother passed away in Lagos, while Bello was still finishing his coursework at SJGC. Mrs. Bello was a lifelong teacher and instilled the value of education into Emmanuel. Bello had a special relationship with his mother.

“She was everything to me,” the exchange student lamented. “She taught me how to be humble, to focus and develop myself and always had encouraging words for me.”

Not only did he lose his mother, but he did not get a chance to say goodbye. Emmanuel’s father suggested he stay in Tallahassee in lieu of attending the funeral in Lagos.

“He told me ‘Be strong, pay attention in school.’ Better to do that then go home and feel deflated,” Bello said.

Losing his mother further illuminated his path. After all, it was his mother and father who encouraged him to apply to come to FAMU. Bello threw himself into his studies, even skipping spring break to hone his skills which include realistic portrait drawings and participating in an Oculus AR/VR workshop in SJGC. The workshop occurred just one week after his mother’s passing.

“At that time, I felt so down. But the workshop gave me an outlet and I thought ‘This is what she would want me to be doing,’”he said.

Bello feels that his story is far from over. He wants to apply what he’s learned to make change in Nigeria.

“I hope I am not the last person to come to FAMU’s school of journalism from my school. I want (FUTA students) to hear and learn from my story,” he said. “Our consulate needs us to come here then go back home and impact our communities there using what we’ve learned.”