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NEWS | Oct. 4, 2021

NSWCPD Disability Month Spotlight

By Brentan Debysingh

As far as inspirations go, it would be tough to find a more compelling one than that of Naval Surface Warfare Center, Philadelphia Division (NSWCPD) engineer Kebba Kanuteh. His formidable path to NSWCPD includes overcoming illiteracy and obesity. Born in New York City, Kanuteh was sent to live with his grandparents in Gambia when he was 10 years old. Unfortunately, while there, he was not able to attend school. When he returned to the United States five years later, he could barely read due to his lack of an education combined with undiagnosed, severe dyslexia. Frustrated, Kanuteh fell into a depression, which triggered a massive weight gain.

In 2004, Kanuteh’s hopes for a fresh start at Philadelphia Community College were dashed when his severe reading disability prevented him from enrolling. Shortly thereafter, he began working as a janitor at the Philadelphia Navy Yard, where he used lunchtime workouts to lose over 100 pounds during the ensuing year. Kanuteh’s joyous, positive attitude proved irresistible as he easily made new friends among the engineers who joined his workout sessions. These new friendships inspired him to dream of becoming an engineer.

As the NSWCPD community learned of his story, his determination and his aspiration, they recommended Kanuteh partake in the Disability Recruitment Program. It was there his learning disability was officially diagnosed as dyslexia, and in 2008, he was hired and worked to become a program assistant. Thirteen years later, Kanuteh has earned his Bachelor’s Degree in Electrical Engineering from Arizona State University (ASU) and currently works as an Engineer at NSWCPD. As an on-site installation coordinator, he oversees ship alterations and installations, as well as provides technical documents to the department by coordinating with a third-party database Naval Ships Engineering Drawing Repository (NSEDR). Always motivated, Kanuteh has also enrolled in a Master’s Degree program at ASU. He also shares his story with young students and professional organizations as a motivational speaker.

“I want to tell people that no matter what in life, no matter what kind of a situation you’re in, if you stay strong, if you work hard, you can do anything, especially when people are willing to help,” said Kanuteh. “I’m grateful to the many people who want me to succeed. They have encouraged me every step of the way on this journey. My goal is to be an inspiration to others as others have inspired me.”

“I work hard, but support has been the difference between a struggling employee and a confident and successful one,” Kanuteh added. “As a person with severe dyslexia, the NSWCPD has made accommodations for my disability, including a dyslexia specialist and job coach.”

Naval Surface Warfare Center, Philadelphia Division (NSWCPD) engineer Kebba Kanuteh oversees ship alterations and installations, as well as provides technical documents to the department by coordinating with a third-party database Naval Ships Engineering Drawing Repository (NSEDR).

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