Zanele Kutamo

Zanele Kutamo Continues Her Unique Journey

When Zanele Kutamo left South Africa to work as an au pair in northern Indiana, she experienced changes in nearly every area of her life. The one thing that remained the same, however, was her commitment to hard work–and that commitment has paid off in ways that Zanele never could have imagined when she started her journey five years ago.

While living in South Africa and preparing to come to the U.S., Zanele had worked four jobs to save money. But she still needed to earn more in order to realize her dream of attaining a degree. In 2003, Zanele found work with a Valparaiso couple, Mary and Britt Jensen, who welcomed Zanele into their home to care for their three daughters.

As an au pair, Zanele was required to take six college credits, and she enrolled at Ivy Tech Community College. Zanele demonstrated a passion for learning and showed she was ready to put in the time–both inside and outside of class–to make herself a success. Impressed by Zanele's drive, the Jensens supported Zanele by paying her tuition and encouraging her to continue her education.

Ivy Tech proved to be a natural fit. Zanele was able to continue her duties as au pair while pouring herself into her schoolwork. Soon it was more than just her adoptive family that noticed her drive and gifts. One of her first honors was making the Dean's List in 2005. Then she was invited to join the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society and the Kappa Beta Delta Business Organization. In April 2007, Zanele was elected President of Phi Theta Kappa, Alpha Pi Omega Chapter for Ivy Tech Community College Northwest.

Honors and awards kept coming her way. In December 2007, Zanele graduated from Ivy Tech with a degree in Database Administration. By that time she had acquired six awards and scholarships based on her leadership and academic abilities.

As her time at Ivy Tech was drawing to a close, Zanele began thinking about the future. Her goal was to continue on and complete a bachelor's degree, but she wasn't sure how she would pay for two more years of college. With the help of faculty members Bruce Brackney and Ethel Harvey, among others, Zanele found a way to keep her dream alive. On the day she graduated in December of 2007, Zanele was told she had been granted a full tuition scholarship at Valparaiso University through a partnership with Ivy Tech Community College.

Ethel Harvey, associate professor of Computer Information Systems and a Phi Theta Kappa advisor, says Zanele displayed all of the qualities that such scholarships are meant to reward.

"I met Zanele Katamo when she was voted in as our Alpha Phi Omega Chapter president," Harvey says. "She exemplifies what hard work and perseverance can accomplish. She is such a remarkable, intelligent, energetic individual, and she prioritizes her time around helping others."

Now in her junior year at Valparaiso studying Computer Science, Zanele says that her success would not have been possible without Ivy Tech Community College. Her classes were challenging, but the faculty and friendly staff made it possible for her to navigate a new environment.

"Everyone from the Phi Theta Kappa advisors to my tutors helped me succeed," Zanele says. "They helped me get good grades and qualify for scholarships. All I had to do was ask."

Because of her success, she is often called upon to encourage incoming students from a variety of backgrounds. Using herself as an example, Zanele is quick to outline the many ways in which Ivy Tech accommodates busy schedules and high aspirations.

"Even if you work or take care of family, class schedules are flexible," she states. "Ivy Tech prepares you if you want to continue your education, like I did when I transferred to Valparaiso. They have tutors available, too, if you need help."

After finishing her studies at Valparaiso, Zanele wants to continue learning and get her Master's degree and Ph.D. and eventually go on to start her own consulting business. But one thing is certain: no matter what Zanele does, she will always take a piece of Ivy Tech Community College with her.

"Ivy Tech has been my home," Zanele explains. "Everything I've done I owe to Ivy Tech."