KPMG Future Leader Efhe Ikharo is a walking embodiment of Black history.
Growing up in The Gambia in West Africa, Efhe enjoyed a normal childhood. She lived with her mom, aunt and younger brother. She went to school every day and played outside with her friends. She was happy.
At age 10, her mom sent Efhe and her brother to the United States in hopes of providing them with a better life. Almost instantly, everything changed and adapting to a new life in a new country proved to be difficult.
“When I moved, I didn’t really understand why I was moving away and why I was leaving everything that was comforting to me,” Efhe said. “It was a major culture shock for me coming here. It definitely didn’t feel like home and was very much different from what I was used to. It was a big adjustment, however God really blessed me with a family that was understanding of my transition and was with me every step of the way.”
Efhe’s biggest challenges came at school. She was used to the environment of her school in The Gambia, where all the kids wore uniforms, and where in Efhe’s own words, as a Black girl, she was in the majority. It was quite the opposite at her new school in America. She had never been more aware of her accent and she noticed how she dressed differently. She knew she was more than just a ‘new kid on the block,’ and felt the need to explain herself for who she was. As she became more comfortable with her new life, Efhe flourished in the classroom, and her sense of purpose was unwavering. She knew what her mother had sacrificed in getting her to America and used that sacrifice as an inspiration to persevere in the face of so many challenges.
“There's a sense of responsibility that comes with being in a position like this where I have access to certain privileges that I can't even imagine,” Efhe said. “I was blessed with an opportunity. I’m very Godly and spiritual, so God and my mom really kept me going and persevering through the hard times and just remembering that there’s a purpose for this and a goal and outcome that would be fulfilling for me and my family.”
As Efhe began to think about college, her heart was set on the University of North Carolina. Just 30 miles from her home in Raleigh, it seemed like the perfect fit. Little did she know, a visit to North Carolina Central University (NCCU), would be a day that would change the course of her life, leading her to a place where she felt a true sense of belonging and support.
“In high school, I felt I was always having to explain for how I showed up as myself, and at NCCU, it felt like I fit in for who I was,” Efhe said. “It’s a historically black college and university and yes that added to the home atmosphere, but it was the faculty that really seemed to care about what I wanted to do and how I wanted to get there, and they were willing to give me the tools to achieve those goals.”
Now a junior at NCCU, Efhe is flourishing both inside and outside of the classroom. She’s pursuing a degree in business administration with a focus in finance. She’s a Career Eagle Officer, serving as an ambassador for the NCCU Career Center. She’s involved in the White House’s HBCU initiative to eliminate barriers HBCU’s face in providing the highest quality education.
In addition to all she’s doing on the path to a promising career, Efhe is also connecting her campus with her African roots. Through an initiative called EZ Plates, Efhe is providing traditional African meals for NCCU students, keeping her in touch with her culture while bringing a taste of home to so many of her fellow students from Africa.
“Black culture to me is not just African-American culture, it’s African culture. It’s our roots. It’s the existence of Black people,” Efhe said. “I wanted to give back to my campus in a way I felt a need was not met, which was to add a cultural ambience to the campus, and I chose to do this through food. I get to show love for my culture and expose other people to it, so I really can’t ask for anything more. To me, that’s success enough.”
Efhe has the world at her fingertips. She has an internship lined up this summer with a wealth management company. She’s a year away from graduation and has ambitions to move out of North Carolina and pursue a career in finance and wealth management after receiving her diploma. She’s full of confidence and has a clear vision for what her future holds, and she’s miles from the young girl who arrived in America just a decade ago.
“The best way to describe it, and this is probably life for everybody, but it’s like a caterpillar becoming a butterfly,” Efhe said. “I felt like this journey was essential for me to shed the layers I needed to and become the person I feel like I was meant to be. Every hardship I’ve overcome, I’ve been rewarded with something in the process. The fact that I've been guided by God and my family and my support system, I can only trust that I’ll be able to get through whatever is coming my way.”