For most freshmen, the first day of collegiate classes are a culture shock, but for Midland freshman women’s basketball player Olga Mwenentanda, Tuesday, August 21 will be remember for much more. On Tuesday, the same day Midland opened the academic year, Olga received her United States citizenship.
Olga, a Congo native, was declared a U.S. citizen on Tuesday after months of filling out forms and taking tests. The process for naturalization in the United States can often turn into a waiting game that lasts anywhere from a few months to several years; for Olga the process took approximately six months.
“She has worked very hard through the whole process,” said Matt Fritsche, Midland University women’s basketball head coach. “Our entire basketball family is excited about everything she has accomplished.”
Yet, those who know Olga’s story realize how monumental the occasion really is. Just over three year’s ago, Olga’s caretaker, who had overseen Olga in the United States since she was 11-years old, flew her into South Africa with no way of returning to the United States. Only after heroic efforts by her former coach and a Nebraska Supreme Court ruling was Olga able to return to the United States one year ago. Her newly earned citizenship guarantees she will not be stranded if she travels abroad again.
“I feel more free now that I am a citizen,” said Olga. “I feel like I can go anywhere in the world now and come back. A huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders.”
Her early hardships, as heavy as they were, have not stopped Olga from performing on the basketball court. As a senior at Lincoln Southwest High School she averaged over 12 points and six rebounds per game. She also was a 2011-12 First Team All-City selection and a Nebraska Class-A Honorable Mention selection.
She will begin her collegiate basketball career with Midland University this season. The Warriors will open the 2012-13 season in their home Midland Classic Tournament on Thursday, Nov. 1.