plays her cards strategically
left, Stephanie Krebs, Sharon Calhoun and Alhaja Affinnih
met for their fourth-year Commerce School study group.
years graduating class boasts many high achievers who have
overcome odds that would stymie those with lesser constitutions.
Consider Alhaja Affinnih, who embodies drive and determination.
27, receives her bachelors degree from the Commerce
School with dual concentrations in marketing and management
information systems. She came to the University as a third-year
student from Piedmont Virginia Community College, where she earned
associates degrees in business administration and computer
starts work with Verizon Communications in Arlington, Va., in
late June. If the economic slowdown threatens that position, she
has her backup plan applications at several federal agencies
and an active resumé on Monster.com.
her life now seems direct and well ordered, the path wasnt
always that straight. Shes been raising three children and
a niece and nephew, plus caring for her diabetic mother. Once
her school day was finished, the family fed, the childrens
homework completed, and everyone bedded down, Affinnih finally
did her homework, often working from 11 p.m. until about 2 or
3 a.m. The daily cycle would start again at 5:30 a.m.
thankful her parents instilled in her a drive for higher education.
Affinnih was born in the Bronx to a Nigerian father and an African-American
mother. Her father, a taxi driver and a student, and her mother,
a telephone operator, afforded their family of five a middle-class
living. Affinnihs father later earned a doctorate in sociology
when she was 13. He is now a professor at City University of New
Yorks John Jay College of Criminal Justice.
father sacrificed for his education, Affinnih said. He
and my mother drilled into me the importance of an education.
They told me school was the best way to succeed.
family moved to Charlottesville in 1986 for her fathers
fellowship at U.Va.s Carter G. Woodson Institute. After
the fellowship ended, he returned to New York, but Affinnihs
mother stayed with her three children, preferring Charlottesvilles
small-town environment. After graduating from Albemarle High School,
college hovered on Affinnihs horizon, but child rearing
intervened. A year after her first son was born, the second son
came along. At 20, Affinnih took custody of her niece and nephew
while her older sister worked out personal problems.
working several jobs and sometimes barely making ends meet, she
realized she needed a long-term strategy to attain her goal of
attending college, so she created a five-year plan. Two weeks
after her daughter was born, in August 1996, she started at PVCC,
at PVCC, Affinnih attended class, held various jobs including
creating a searchable database for a Charlottesville product-injury
law firm and tutored students in French, accounting, computer
applications, mathematics and statistics.
to family financial support and child-care assistance from her
mother, Affinnih stopped working part time this year to attend
U.Va. full time and finish her degree. Through her technical experience
and classes at the McIntire School of Commerce, Affinnih has gained
expertise that will serve her well in the business world
the computer languages C++, Visual Basic and Java, along with
all goes well at Verizon, Affinnih wants to take advantage of
the companys educational benefits: Verizon will pay 100
percent of the cost of relevant graduate studies. She wants to
pursue a masters degree in business administration.
is like a card game, mused Affinnih. You dont
have to keep the cards youre dealt. Its how you play
that matters. If you give up on a hand, you give up on life. If
you play your cards strategically, you can win.