NEW ORLEANS — If only the Democrats and Republicans could meet Mirjam Sipos, then we wouldn’t have so much disagreement over immigration reform.
Four years after fulfilling her childhood dream of coming to America from her native Hungary to play college basketball, Sipos plays her final home game Thursday when UNO hosts Utah Valley.
“I’m sad to see it end,” Sipos said. “This is the best thing that has ever happened to me.”
Others might see it differently.
Since her freshman season of 2009-10, Sipos has experienced the UNO athletic program’s meandering journey from Division I to Division III to Division II and now, for her senior season, back to D-I, albeit as an independent with a roster gutted by all of the changes.
The Lady Privateers are only 5-64 over the last three seasons, including a 2-19 mark this year.
Sipos, a 5-foot-9 guard, has stuck it out.
“I love the city, I love the school and I love the program,” she said. “It’s been tough sometimes. But it’s been worth it.”
Worth it, Sipos said, because she will graduate with honors in May, receiving a double major degree in hotel management and tourism administration.
Worth it, because even though the record is abysmal, Sipos sees every game as an opportunity not just to win, but to put the program back on the right track.
Worth it, because at UNO she met her boyfriend, Simon Kajler, who like Sipos, left his country (Germany) for an American education at UNO.
Worth it because, as she said, Sipos has fallen in love with New Orleans, chiefly for its charm and diversity. More gumbo than goulash these days, Sipos prides herself on being able to give directions to most any point in the city.
And worth it, because America has proven to be the land of opportunity she had heard about.
“Hungary is still like the rest of eastern Europe,” she said. “We are not under Communism any more, but there are still limits to what you can be.
“People may complain here, but you can still reach your goals and make things better for your children.”
For that reason Sipos hopes to remain in this country.
She’ll receive a two-year student visa extension while going to graduate school and after than plans to apply for her green card with an eye towards eventual citizenship.
To UNO coach Keeshawn Carter, she’d make a great American — if she isn’t one already.
“Word’s can’t describe Mirjam’s character,” Carter said. “We’ve been through so many rough times here, and she’s responded unlike anything I’ve ever seen.
“We nicknamed her ‘110’ because she’s always given 110 percent, not just on the court but in things like our community service projects. I’m so proud of her, but I’m also so sad to see her go.”
Maybe she won’t have to.
For sure, we could use more Americans like Mirjam Sipos.
Hear that, Congress?