Makorobondo K. Salukombo

Makorobondo K. Salukombo, 2011

B.A., Denison University

Nonprofit Entrepreneur, Olympic Marathoner

Lakewood, Ohio

A 2012 Denison graduate, Makorobondo “Dee” Salukombo founded Project Kirotshe, a youth running program with a positive educational focus. The nonprofit entrepreneurial program is based in his former home village of Kirotshe, located in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The goal of Project Kirotshe is to provide school expenses and supplies for students to deter them from joining militant groups. After receiving a $10,000 grant from the Davis Projects for Peace and other donations, Project Kirotshe shipped 13,000 textbooks, 55 computers, and athletic equipment to supply the village’s new community learning center and running team.

Dee’s philanthropic vision is to inspire young students to become leaders and role models in their community and build a future generation that can break the cycle of poverty and war.

Dee graduated from Denison with a B.A. in chemistry. While a student, he was a dominant member of the Big Red varsity track and field and cross country teams. In the fall of 2011, he earned all-American honors for the third time with an eighth-place finish among a field of nearly 300 of the nation’s top runners at the NCAA National Championship meet in Wisconsin. Dee also was a three-time all-American in track and field, placing in the 1,600-meter and 5,000-meter events at the NCAA Indoor and Outdoor National Championships. In addition, the North Coast Athletic Conference honored him as its Indoor Track Distance Runner of the Year, Outdoor Track Distance Runner of the Year, and Cross Country Runner of the Year.

While at Denison, Dee also served the Central Ohio community as a volunteer with the Big Brothers Big Sisters program.

Dee’s illustrious athletic career in track and field continued beyond Denison. He represented the Democratic Republic of the Congo in the opening ceremony of the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where he competed in the marathon. One of his DRC teammates at the Olympics was a runner who had come through the Project Kirotshe program. A year later, he won the gold medal at the 2017 Jeux de la Francophonie in Abidjan, Ivory Coast.

Dee was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo. At the age of 12, Dee and his family fled the Congo as refugees to Uganda. His father, Fanchon, was imprisoned and extorted for what little money they had. If not for a lone prison guard who aided in Fanchon’s escape, this could have been where the story ended for the Salukombo family. After spending three years in a refugee camp in Uganda, Dee and his family resettled in Lakewood, Ohio, near Cleveland in 2004, where he continued to pursue his academic and athletic careers.

Dee’s story has been told and retold in the media, including features by the Associated Press and National Public Radio.