Many students face hurdles before arriving at college, but few of these experiences are as intense as surviving a 7.0 magnitude earthquake.
Olritch Henry transferred to Bridgewater State University this fall after completing two years at Massasoit Community College.
On Jan. 12, 2010, the criminal justice major was a 16-year-old kid playing on a soccer field in his native Haiti when the devastating earthquake struck.
The teen was familiar with adversity, but was not prepared for the devastation he and his fellow citizens now faced. Structures crumbled to dust. The landscape was a disaster, with an estimated 300,000 deaths reported by the Haitian government.
Olritch was eventually able to gain legal access to the United States. He arrived alone and did not speak English, but through the help of caring individuals, he was placed with a host family through a church in Providence, Rhode Island.
Education isn’t something Olritch gave much thought to in Haiti.
“It wasn’t promoted,” he said.
Through his host family he was given the opportunity to attend North Attleboro High School, where he also applied his athletic skills on the soccer team.
Upon graduating from high school in 2012, Olritch worked hard to earn a living, taking on jobs at Walmart and Wendy’s. During this time he also found love.
When he talks about Luduwyard, who is now his wife, Olritch’s face breaks into a smile. He beams even more when his three-year-old daughter, Henjoviar, is mentioned. He wants to set an example for her by continuing his education.
“I want to be something for my daughter,” he said. “My goal is to become a detective, and eventually work for the FBI.”
He plans to graduate in 2021, making him the first in his family to earn a college degree.
Before he hits that milestone, Olritch’s goal is to become a United States citizen and share his story of survival to inspire others who are struggling.
“You don’t have to quit on your life,” he said.