Kisyula Overcomes Adversity to Become the ComArtSci Banner Carrier

Commencement is a time to reflect on years of hard work and challenges overcome. Media and Information senior Rellikson Kisyula overcame an accident that changed his life forever.

Born in Nairobi, Kenya, Kisyula has a passion for data and computer science. He first attended the African Leadership Academy in South Africa, graduating in 2018. After being granted the MasterCard Scholarship, Kisyula came to MSU to major in Media and Information with a concentration in Human Centered Technology and Game and Interactive Media Design. Kisyula also has a minor in Computational Mathematics.

Putting Life on Hold

A bicycle accident led to Kisyula’s life coming to a standstill. While biking across the crosswalk in front of Case Hall on his way to class, Kisyula was hit by a car turning right. The car crashed into Kisyula’s back tire, which threw him into the road.

Kisyula sustained numerous injuries, including a dislocated shoulder, fractured patella, torn ligaments and meniscus in his knee, and a severe concussion. He had to go through a series of surgeries to reconstruct his knee and fix his shoulder. Due to his severe concussion, he also had to start a special hospital program to help heal his severe concussion. Later, he was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), depression and anxiety as a result of the accident. 

“After my accident, I had to pull out of school for a semester for many reasons. The first was restricted mobility. The second was that I was in a lot of pain, which meant lots of pain medication, and that impairs the way you think,” said Kisyula. “Medical check-ups and rehabilitation also took up a lot of time. Lastly, I had to stop because of my concussion, which is a severe brain injury, so things like concentration and memory were affected.”

During this time, Kisyula had to pull out of the jobs and projects he was working on as a developer. Before the accident, he was also studying for the GRE, and he was unable to take the test after his concussion. His injuries also affected his life with friends due to his limited mobility and brain injury.

“Sometimes friends will talk to me and I’ll tell them the same story twice because I forgot I had the same conversation with them,” said Kisyula.

Overcoming Adversity

As Kisyula recovered from the accident, he went through a series of programs and surgeries to get his life back on track. This included a program through Sparrow Hospital to help him with his severe concussion. He also had three surgeries to reconstruct his knee.

“At first, I wanted to keep things on my own, but when I started to reach out to people I got a lot of help to handle the situation better than on my own,” said Kisyula. “Lots of people and friends and faculty are willing to help more than you think.”

Moving Forward

To be selected as a banner carrier at commencement, students have to be nominated by a faculty member for overcoming a certain amount of challenges and pushing through to get an education. Kisyula was the clear frontrunner for the position.

“It’s an exciting opportunity. I never thought I’d represent my college and colleagues,” said Kisyula. “In February, I was worried I wouldn’t be able to walk because I was still in a wheelchair, but I’m getting better, and I think I’ll be able to walk on my own.”

After he represents his college at commencement, Kisyula plans to attend graduate school at the University of British Columbia or the University of Toronto to focus on human-centered data science or predictive models based off data to access community needs.

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By Sierra Richards