Sira Kone

Berkeley Adult School

Nominated in 2023


Sira Kone’s journey to success is based on the foundation of tenacity, intention, commitment, and lots of hard work. I was immediately taken with Sira as a student, and I was inspired and amazed by the challenges she had to overcome to be an adult learner. I find her to truly be a student who succeeded, and I hope you do too!

Sira was born in the city of Ouagadougou, in Burkina Faso, Africa. It was called a city, but life there was more like a village. She came from a very poor family. Her father had 4 wives and 18 children. Sira didn’t begin school until she was 12 years old because her parents did not realize the importance of school because they never went to school. School was not stressed and it wasn’t considered a big deal: you went or not…it was up to your family.

When Sira began school, it was very difficult because the other students in her level were 7 years old. Sira really wanted to learn, so she got a friend of hers who was doing well in school, to home school her. Sira paid for this from some money she got from her sister who had already migrated to the U.S. That arrangement only continued for 2 years because Sira’s friend moved away. However, Sira never learned how to write in her own language.

After that, Sira worked in Africa, from 14 years old to 19 years old, selling nuts and snacks on the street. She sometimes danced with local artists and went to other countries to perform. When Sira was 19, in 2005, her sister, who lived in the U.S., was at a school in Santa Cruz. She was planning a performance and got the school to invite Sira and some of her family to come help with the performance. They got to come but had to pay their own way.

Sira stayed in the U.S. until she got her papers in 2007 when she was 21 years old. In those two years she was unable to obtain a formal education and earned money by doing African braiding for people.

Without a formal education Sira persisted with her tenacity, intention, commitment and hard work and managed to pass her CNA test, after 3 tries, in 2011. In addition, Sira was also able to achieve one of her lifelong goals and she became an American citizen in 2013. She also managed to get a job at Highland Hospital in S.F. and worked there from 2013-2016.

During this time, Sira got involved in what turned out to be an abusive relationship. However, this relationship gave her two wonderful children. She had a son, Liam, born in 2015 and a daughter, Eva, born in 2017. Sira was able to free herself from her abusive partner in 2022 and has been a single mom ever since.

In the middle of all of this: a job at Highland Hospital, a difficult family relationship, and the responsibility of two small children, Sira began her studies at BAS to get her H.S. diploma. I had the opportunity to interview one of her teachers from that time, Eva Bowler, and she described Sira as incredibly motivated, tenacious and brave. Eva said Sira always showed up, sometimes stayed at school, worked and studied until 9pm. Sira was very responsible, always did her homework and was totally committed to becoming a nurse. When I asked Sira about her choice to be a nurse, she told me that she always wanted to do something that would help other people.

Eva also said that: “Sira Kone is why adult education is a joy.” Eva sees Sira as a person who fights and works hard for what she wants, is resourceful and humble enough to get and receive help.

Sira got her H.S. diploma in 2018. She worked at UCSF Hospital from 2019-2020 and is now happily working at SFGH.

Sira has her CNA, but her goal now is to become a Registered Nurse. She is now back at BAS in my Intermediate Low ESL class learning to improve her speaking even more but focusing on her writing skills.

Berkeley Adult School gave Sira a slice of the formal education she missed in her younger years. It opened the door to the real possibility of her goal to become a Registered Nurse and it provided her with the missing piece of her puzzle: a High School Diploma!!

I feel that Sira herself is her contribution to adult education. She is a model of what tenacity and hard work can accomplish with the existence of an educational institution for adults. Without BAS, Sira would not have been able to follow and achieve her dream. She needed that support and guidance and caring to help her to get her H.S. diploma which would open the doors for her. If Sira is chosen for this award, her story will be an inspiration for adult students because it demonstrates that continuing against great odds can work especially when there is the support of an Adult School!!

Now that Sira has her H.S. diploma, she is on her way to improving her writing skills with further help from BAS and realizing her goal of becoming a Registered Nurse!! Sira’s learning experiences have dramatically improved the lives of her children especially compared to the lack of education Sira had as a child. Sira takes education so seriously that, in addition to regular school, she is also paying for private tutors for both children.

Sira is an amazing person, a dedicated mother, a valued nurse’s assistant, and an adult education student who is a joy. I am sure that her ability to fight for what she wants, and her consistent hard work will place her in many leadership positions in future and she will be able to influence positive outcomes in many lives.

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