Teen fl ees West Africa to become Bronx nurse
BY JASON COHEN
Jainaba Ceesay fl ed a forced marriage
in Africa, spent time living in a
shelter and faced discrimination because
of a hijab. Cessay overcame those
insurmountable odds to become a registered
nurse in the Bronx — she lives
in Wakefi eld — and the fi rst woman in
her family to earn a college degree.
Ceesay, 25, graduated in May with
her bachelor’s in arts in nursing from
Lehman College. While she plans to go
to graduate school to become a nurse
anesthetist, her path to success has not
She grew up in a relatively small
town in The Gambia in West Africa.
Both her parents were business owners,
and her father was also a local politician.
But Ceesay, prepared for an arragned
married to a 39-year-old man
who was physically and psychologically
abusive, badly wanted to leave.
In high school, she came to the U.S.
for the fi rst time on a school trip to a
conference in Washington, D.C. Soon
after, her cousin, who lives in New
York City, convinced her to return to
the U.S. to seek asylum in NYC. So, in
2014, she emigrated from Africa at just
the age of 17.
“I was afraid to go back,” she said to
the Bronx Times about her native country.
“I … can’t just marry any person.
Marriage is not the biggest achievement
in life. You can get married, but
you can also get an education.”
However, once in NYC, her cousin’s
family wouldn’t allow her to go back to
school due to their cultural. Upon fi nding
out that she had successfully found
and enrolled in GED classes at Bronx
Community College, they kicked her
out of their house.
For the next two and a half years,
she lived in a shelter while attending
school part-time and working multiple
jobs. She completed her GED and associate’s
degree at Bronx Community
College before transferring to Lehman
for her bachelor’s in Nursing. It has
taken her fi ve-plus years to get to this
point as she initially wasn’t allowed to
attend school full-time because of her
undetermined immigration status.
Adjusting to life in America — especially
New York — was diffi cult, she
Although language wasn’t a barrier
as she had learned English growing
up, the fast pace of life in NYC was
challenging. As a hijab-wearing Muslim
woman, she also experienced discrimination
— including being denied
jobs and treated differently because of
“In the beginning, I didn’t think
I would make it,” Ceesay said. “They
don’t see that I’m human before I am a
Muslim or an African.”
Sickle cell also affected her while
living on her own. She spent many
NOTICE OF INQUEST
Docket No. NN-05726-8/20
BRONX TIMES REPORTER, J 20 JAN. 14-20, 2022 BTR
Wakefi eld resident Jainaba Ceesay, who survived a forced marriage in The Gambia and living
in a shelter, will soon become a nurse in the Bronx. Photo courtesy Jainaba Ceesay
days hospitalized and in pain. While
she came to America with an interest
in international relations, after experiencing
“the compassion and dedication
from nurses who cared for her,”
she was inspired to become a nurse.
Ceesay still keeps in touch with a
few of her nurses that cared for her.
“I want to be able to relate to people
and be able to understand their
pain and help them manage it in the
best possible way,” Ceesay said.
In 2018, she was granted asylum
and is awaiting her green card. Returning
home is not an option.
When she left her home, the man
she was arranged to marry began to
harass and threaten her family causing
her mother and brothers to fl ee
the country for the U.K. Her father
wasn’t so fortunate as he was killed
not long after Ceesay left, and it is believed
that the husband was responsible
for his murder.
Ceesay stays with a young family
in Wakefi eld and works at Montefi ore
Hospital, where she plans to complete
her training before applying to graduate
According to Ceesay, leaving her
family in Africa took a lot of courage,
but was worth the risk.
“It feels really amazing,” she said.
“I feel like I have set a standard for
the generations of women that will
follow. I have cousins that are inspired.”
Women in her family are raised to
aspire to get married and raise a family,
but she was determined to continue
her education and do more.
“When I look back at things — I
went through very painful experiences,”
Ceesay said. “There were
days when I didn’t eat for days, and I
always found myself at risk of being
homeless again. Now that things are
falling into place, and I have a career
where I can work in any part of the
world, it is such a relief.”
It tells me my hard work and sacrifi
ces and my act of refusing to settle
for things I don’t believe in — that go
against my moral values – are paying
off. I didn’t use the idea of being in
America as an excuse. I took advantage
of the opportunity and fulfi lled
FAMILY COURT OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK
COUNTY OF THE BRONX
In the Matter of
QUAVILE PADILLA (DOB 04/10/2018)
NEVILE PADILLA (DOB 07/04/2013)
SERYIAH M URRAY (DOB 02/04/2011)
A Child(ren) Under Eighteen Years
Alleged to be Neglected by
TO: THEODORE PADILLA
1010 E. 178th, Apt. 5H
Bronx, NY 10460
LINK IN- https://notify.nycourts.gov/meet/ag3waa
DIAL IN- (929) 346-7209 dial-in code 226988904#
PLEASE CALL OR LINK IN ON DATE AND TIME STATED BELOW.
PLEASE TAKE NOTICE that the above named child is alleged to be neglected pursuant to
Section 1012 of Article 10 of the Family Court Act.
PLEASE DO A VIRTUAL CALL-IN on January 20, 2021 at 2:30-3:30PM in Part 17 of the
BRONX FAMILY COURT located at 900 Sheridan Avenue, Bronx, New York, proceedings
will be forward on INQUEST to determine;
(X) Whether the above named children are neglected pursuant to Article 10 of the
Family Court Act.
(X) Whether having found said child to be neglected they shall be placed with the
Commissioner of Social Services for a period not to exceed twelve months.
BE ADVISED that the Court has authority to proceed even if you do not appear. Said authority
is found in Section 1042 on the Family Court Act. The court will proceed on INQUEST on the
date listed above.
MARY KATHERINE CUNNINGHAM
Special Assistant Corporation Counsel
Attorney for the Commissioner of the
Administration for Children’s Services
900 Sheridan Avenue Bronx, New York 10451
Tel: # (347)- 452-8195