A desire to help create change led Eke Nwakalom from his life as a corporate auditor in Nigeria to working as a case manager for the Jackson County Department of Corrections.
“I felt like I needed to do something different from the banking career which I had. I didn’t see how I can help make changes to the society so I decided to pick up a master’s program in the United States and that is how I got here,” he said.
Nwakalom, who already had a master’s degree in finance, moved to Kansas City to study at Park University and graduated in 2014 with a master’s in public management. He chose Park because his friend had a cousin living in Kansas City and wanted a place to stay and be able to go to school without a lot of pressure.
While in school Nwakalom started working as a corrections officer to pay bills. He has since been promoted to case manager and even helps out in the finance and purchasing unit when needed. “I help them out in procurement and also when the supervisor isn’t around which is what I like to do, anything with calculation I love it.”
Aside from what he does for Corrections, he doesn’t have the desire to return to banking. “A whole lot about me has changed even though that is what I love to do,” he said. “Having to deal with inmates and being around people has affected my life a whole lot. Learning empathy and how to work with them and make things happen around them kept me at the jail.”
“I don’t know what it is but I think this whole thing got me going to a point where I am looking how to help people and how to make more of an impact on the society,” he said. “Do things that will affect lives. Because of my career at the jail I am thinking about opening a food pantry back home, no matter how small it is because this is how you can affect people’s lives. The different types of people I have met at the jail has exposed me to what is going on in society, how people can be down and how they need motivation no matter how small it is so I think this is what I want to do right now is help people to keep going because life is too short.”
For the past five years Nwakalom has been sending money back home to family members. “I was raised in a family where people depend on you and so I started this thing years ago where I reach out to people and try to help them now. No matter how little I make I give the old folks, like the widows, I give them something from what I make. No matter how small it is.”
Nwakalom is from Lagos State Nigeria an area of more than 25 million people. His parents still live there so he goes home every year for three to five weeks at a time. “That way I can be close to my family again.”
“Most people want to be in Lagos because Lagos is like New York City,” he said. “If you want to survive in Nigeria you have to be in Lagos because that is where everybody is safe.”
Corrections has had a large impact on associates from other countries who are employed there, Nwalkalom said. It has helped teach them what is acceptable in American society. “Without the concept of working at the jail, I think most of us would be in trouble. The jail has brought us together to a point where we can understand the things you can actually do and things you cannot do.”
“We were raised where you have to be the man and whatever the man says is how it goes. But it is not like that in America, and corrections kind of brings you down to where you should be and make you see reasons why you can’t act that way,” he said.
There are people from several different African nations working together at the jail, he said. “Africans all working together. We have been able to come together and say we are going to make this work and the population is growing. The reason behind that is because the jail is getting better. It is getting better every day with the new management putting in so many things trying to make sure that gets better.”
The Jackson County Department of Corrections has become a great example of diversity in the workplace by hiring associates who have come from around the world. The story of Eke Nwakalom is the first in a series of articles about the associates from around the world working for the Jackson County Department of Corrections.