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Post University Blog

Childhood for Francis Sankoh was anything but typical. At the age of six, he was abducted by one of the rebel leaders in his country, Sierra Leone, which was in the midst of an 11-year-long civil war.

Francis lived with the leader and his wife for five years, who adopted him as a son. “I knew that if I tried to escape, my family would be killed,” he says. “I was kept safe while tens of thousands were murdered.” But one day, he was with his female captor in a Liberia market and spotted his uncle in the crowd. “I called out to him, and he ran over to me, shocked that I was still alive. The woman told me I didn’t know this man and we left. But my uncle persisted.”

In the weeks thereafter, Francis’s family found the couple who had kept their son for almost half of his life and convinced them that they were grateful, not angry, for keeping him safe. Miraculously, they let him go.

Finding Normalcy in School

Returning home was a dream come true but also an adjustment. Francis had never been to school, so his parents figured his best role was to help out on the family’s farm. “Whenever I had a chance, I would study my siblings’ books,” he says. “I wanted to go to school so badly.”

At age 11, his parents agreed to enroll him in first grade. Francis was behind but motivated and steadily caught up to his peers. In 2006, Francis graduated high school and continued his education at the University of Makeni. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in 2010 and began working at a bank.

A U.S. Visa Lottery Win

After just two years of working, Francis was selected in the U.S. Diversity Visa Lottery—and he and his family knew it was the chance of a lifetime. By then, Francis was married with a young daughter. All alone, he moved to Sacramento, California, where a sponsor helped him get settled. He lived with a group of other immigrants, several recently credentialed Certified Nurse Aides (CNA).

“I had applied for accounting positions all over, but I never got called for an interview,” Francis says. He found work as a housekeeper and followed the recommendation of his roommates to become a CNA, too. He enrolled at a career college, finishing the program in 2012.

A Start in Skilled Nursing

Francis started his career at a skilled nursing facility and a rehabilitation center while returning to school to become a Licensed Vocational Nurse. The journey wasn’t easy. He had to stop school for a year to save enough money for tuition, and he struggled to make ends meet, even living out of his car. “It was a very tough beginning, but my family was counting on me, and I never gave up,” he says.

Soon, Francis began to see the fruits of his labor. He applied for and was awarded a scholarship from Care Hope College, which allowed him to pursue an Associate Degree of Nursing. He started working at California Health Care Facility (CHCF), which provides medical care and mental health treatment to inmates in California state prisons. And most importantly, in 2021, he sponsored his wife, two children, and mother to bring them to the United States.

American Sentinel College of Nursing and Health Sciences

After becoming a Registered Nurse in 2022, which allowed him to switch to a nursing position at CHCF, Francis returned to school again. A friend and former colleague referred him to the American Sentinel College of Nursing and Health Sciences at Post University.

“He told me about the great experience he had at American Sentinel and the SIMPath® program, and how the BSN really opened doors for him,” says Francis. In June 2023, he followed in his friend’s footsteps, completing the degree via SIMPath® in just four months. “I’m in love with this school—the responsive communication, the support, and much more,” Francis says. Francis is now pursuing a Master of Science in Nursing –  Infection Prevention and Control Specialization at Post University.

A Goal to Help People

As a nurse working with prison patients dealing with mental health issues, Francis has found his calling. “I really enjoy working with these patients and giving them some comfort that they can get better,” he says. Although he never anticipated becoming a nurse when he first arrived in the United States eleven years ago, he’s grateful for every opportunity.

“I can’t explain what education has done for me and my family,” says Francis, who now sponsors African immigrants yearly and sends money to people in need in his village in Sierra Leone. His children—now 17 and 10—value education, and his daughter plans to pursue the pre-medical path in college.

“I want to show my children and others how education can change your life,” he says. “My goal is always to help more people because I have the ability to do that now. And I know that education will open the doors.”