B.S. Nursing Science ’07
Hometown: Cameroon, Africa
Fun Fact: Met her partner at a Cameroonian wedding in Minnesota
Delphine Atu-Tetuh is the epitome of the American Dream. From Cameroon, Africa Delphine dreamed of one day becoming a college graduate, a nurse, and more importantly, a self-sufficient and capable woman.
“Getting an education is so important, especially as an African woman. I wanted to be independent and afford things myself. I can do that here in America,” she says.
In her culture, women are expected to marry and become housewives, she says, while men are offered more educational opportunities. Aiming to beat the odds, Delphine registered in a visa program hoping she would be one of millions to receive a visa to America. In 1997, her dream came to fruition—she won a visa lottery.
She settled first in Minnesota, but eventually made her way to the Last Frontier in 2003. Though Africa and Alaska may seem like polar opposites, for Delphine, there are striking similarities.
“It looks like Africa here,” she says. “The green mountains and small communities remind me of home.”
Delphine enrolled at UAA and was instantly welcomed by her fellow nursing classmates. “We were like a little family,” she says. “My classmates and professors helped me when I struggled. We worked together. We were a team.”
It’s been a decade since she first arrived in Alaska and since then she has noticed how much the African community has grown. No longer just a tiny fraction of Anchorage’s immigrant population, Delphine says, Africans are making their stay in Anchorage permanent. “We are here to make Alaska our home.”
Last year, Delphine opened a shop at Northway Mall called MotherLand And Me hoping to create a center to unite Anchorage’s African community. “We sell Nigerian movies and special-occasion clothes that are popular in West Africa,” she says. But Delphine wanted to do more; she wanted to empower and encourage African women.
Making Anchorage history, Delphine organized the Miss Africa Alaska pageant—the first “All-African” event in the city. Fifteen women competed to become the first-ever Miss Africa Alaska. From Togo and Nigeria to Ethiopia, Ghana and Sudan, the African contestants celebrated and shared their homeland traditions with Anchorage.
“I was happy to see the amount of support we received from the Anchorage community. It was encouraging. The community wants us here and we could see that,” she says.
When she’s not running her store, she’s working as a nurse at the Hiland Mountain Correctional Center or spending time with her two children—son, Darian Fonjong Igwacho, and daughter, Denisha Anjong-Anne Igwacho
As parents, Delphine and her partner Dr. Peter Igwacho, who is also Cameroonian, teach their children to celebrate the values and traditions of their African and American cultures.
“It’s about knowing who you are and where you are going,” she says. “My children are American, and we want to empower them to be proud of their roots.”
Darian, her 6-year-old son, is proud to be American, she says. “He always tells me, ‘I have to stay here. I don’t want to live in Africa. It’s too hot.’”
Delphine couldn’t be happier with life in Alaska. “UAA has really given me what I wanted—an education and way to give back to my community. I’m really happy.”
She plans to eventually return to UAA and add a master’s degree to her list of accomplishments.