From Refugee to Cisco-Certified Professional: Roosevelt Berry’s Story


    Roosevelt Berry is 31 years old and currently lives in Ghana. He is originally from Buchanan, Liberia, which he fled in 1994 as a result of a brutal civil war. For six years, he and his family went back and forth between Liberia and the Republic of the Ivory Coast (Cote d'Ivoire) in search of a stable life. Roosevelt finished high school in the Ivory Coast in 2000, but afterward found himself on the run from war and violence again. He ended up separated from his family as a refugee in Ghana where his first priority was "to keep the breath in my body." Thanks to a scholarship opportunity from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) that came to him at the refugee camp, his life changed.


    Roosevelt’s life is a powerful story of persistence in the face of war and of someone who continues to seize every opportunity life provides. “Most of my life has been on the run,” says Berry. “But while I was in Ghana in the refugee camp, I was selected to be one of 50 individuals who got introduced to computer tools and technology.” Based on Berry’s performance learning the tools, he was then selected to attend a Cisco CCNA course at the Advanced Information Technology Institute/Kofi Annan-India Center of Excellence in ICT (AITI/KACE). He was one of six people who passed the exam. Afterward, he was contacted by a service provider in Ghana. They offered him an internship working with their network. Now a year later, he has learned some of the job responsibilities of a network support engineer and is preparing for the Implementing Secure Converged Wide Area (ISCW) networks exam as part of the process of getting his Cisco CCNP.


    As a child, Roosevelt thought he would grow up to have a career in business administration, but seeing a friend on a computer changed his dreams. He looked up to his mother, a native of Liberia who had had no opportunity for education in her life. She always stressed the importance of education to her children, and Roosevelt is now experiencing the truth of her vision. While his internship provides a small stipend, the experience he is getting is invaluable. He has learned networking skills such as how to set up monitoring systems and security via access lists, as well as how to fine-tune routing protocols to meet internal and external customer needs. His internship has exposed him to hacking prevention methods and to techniques for optimizing a network for peak traffic periods. The protocols he most enjoys working with are Border Gateway Protocol (BGP), Open Shortest Path First (OSPF), Enhanced Interior Gateway Routing Protocol (EIGRP), and also Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS), although MPLS is not implemented in the backbone of the network he works on.


    As his internship finishes up, Roosevelt hopes to return home to Liberia in December 2008. He is looking forward to sharing his new skills by working for an ISP in Liberia, as well as to passing his CCNP. In retrospect, he says, “If I could change the world for the better, I would give every child the opportunity to learn.” Education unlocked the doors of opportunity for a better life for Roosevelt, and he passes that hope on to those following in his footsteps.


    Roosevelt Berry spoke with Rachel Medanic, Cisco Learning Network Community Manager, in September 2008.