Like Daughter, Like Father

Harvard student’s dad learns English, earns engineering degree

Last June, former People Newspapers intern Kelly Tran introduced readers to Andrea Tchinda Machedjou.

Tchinda Machedjou moved to the United States from Cameroon in Central Africa five years ago, graduated from Hillcrest High School in 2023, and earned a full ride to Harvard.

The Ivy League computer science major may have gotten some of that educational ambition and work ethic from her French-speaking father.

The University of Texas at Dallas recently shared with Preston Hollow People what Jean Tchinda has accomplished since moving his family to North Texas for better opportunities.

Tchinda (pronounced “Chin-da”) learned English, navigated life in a new country, became a U.S. citizen, completed an associate’s degree at Richland College, and graduated with a bachelor’s degree from UT Dallas — all while working a full-time job overnight.

“Some people told me, ‘You cannot go to UTD because it’s such a challenging college,’” he said in a story posted on utdallas.edu. “I want to show that everything is possible. Never give up. You just need to work hard.”

Tchinda would work from 10 p.m. to 6:30 a.m. as a maintenance technician at an aerospace company. After work, he slept for two hours before heading to campus for classes.

In the late afternoon, he got a little more sleep before doing homework from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. and then going to work.

Between it all, he pitched in with rides for his daughters and parent-teacher conferences.

Tchinda said one of the keys to his success was to meet with his professors and to be unafraid to ask for help.

“At UTD, you can get everything you want,” he said. “They have amazing support.”

The usual office hours for Introduction to Wireless Communications didn’t fit into Tchinda’s crammed schedule, so Dr. Mohammad Saquib, professor of electrical engineering, made time after class instead.

“He’s an extremely hard worker,” Saquib said. “If I were an employer, he’s a student I would hire.”

Dr. Rosana Melendez called Tchinda a top student in her systems and controls class this fall.

“His example of hard work serves as an inspiration for many other students who face similar challenges,” the electrical and computer engineering lecturer said. “I am happy that he has achieved this new milestone now of becoming an electrical engineer.”

Tchinda uses that milestone and the pursuit of it to inspire his family.

“I want always to show to my children, everybody around me, that you can do whatever you want. Just try,” he said. “When my kids say something is impossible, that they cannot do that, I say, ‘If I can do it, you can also do it.”’

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William Taylor

William Taylor, editor of Park Cities People and Preston Hollow People, shares a name and a birthday with his dad and a love for community journalism with his colleagues at People Newspapers. He joined the staff in 2016 after more than 25 years working for daily newspapers in such places as Alexandria, Louisiana; Baton Rouge; McKinney; San Angelo; and Sherman, though not in anywhere near that order. A city manager once told him that “city government is the best government” because of its potential to improve the lives of its residents. William still enjoys covering municipal government and many other topics. Follow him on Twitter @Seminarydropout. He apologizes in advance to the Joneses for any angry Tweets that might slip out about the Dallas Cowboys during the NFL season. You also can reach him at william.taylor@peoplenewspapers.com. For the latest news, click here to sign up for our newsletter.

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