Somalis For Change

Boston, MA (HOL) – In an evening of discussion in education by Boston's vibrant Somali community, college students and community organizers were able to present their case in education to the recently-graduated, and 50-plus youngsters from middle and high schools in the crowded diminutive hall at John Elliot street in Roxbury. For the community organizers, keeping school-age teenagers from dropping schools, and disinterest to higher education were daunting goals, but today - as this community's older college students join hands with the community – their youth seem receptive to education. Enjoying the recess from TechBoston Academy, Sakariye Adan, (16), who is an eleventh grader, volunteers for African Community Economic Development of New England, ACEDONE, which facilitated the event in part to increase student's experience in community involvements. "After I finish high school, I want to study international business to help my country and improve business there" said Adan, who seemed ambitious about his dreams. He added that he was once "a tough kid" but now he wants to help his people, study hard and maintain "the culture." Settled in Boston eight years ago, with family, Adan is considered active in the community. But as Somalis in Boston grew in numbers over the years, so does their priority from housing to education and from afterschool to college prep programs.

College bound students

Shukri Ali, principal organizer and University of Massachusetts student activist, believes mentoring and guiding high school students are crucial roles in which college students can create differences. "I was shocked when one of the high school students said to me, 'I want to drive cab after I finish school', and that really fired me up to campaign for the education and to let our young people realize the great alternatives that are there for them" briefed Ali in her opening, who majors nursing, but teaches high school students in Somali Culture and Literature at ACEDONE. Encouraging the students, Yusuf Abdulle, a full time senior at UMass Boston's College of Management, addressed students in his keynote speech titled "the higher aim" that was intended to motivate the mostly teenage audience about the significance of education. "In Islam, you are urged to aim the highest goal attainable" said Abdulle, whose wisdom has paused the playful kids in the hall as most of them listened with keen. "Strive for that which benefits you, ask help from your Lord and don't give in your pursuit for knowledge" advised Abdulle to the predominantly young high school males, adding that the pitfalls upon which most teenagers are susceptible to fall is associating with "bad friends."

Combining efforts

Abdulkadir Hussein, director of ACEDONE, a powerful voice and long time community leader, was there on Thursday night's event as he endorsed the initiative by the local college students to join forces in their campaign for education. "Our efforts must be structured in the way ants work to collaborate for doing things. One ant can't pull anything, but it's in their strong spirit of teamwork that they are able to undertake anything" said Mr. Hussien who emphasized that approach to be the model for addressing the community's common education issues.

ACEDONE caters for the African community in New England, but huge bulks of its activities are geared towards training and educational development of the community. Since its inception in the fall of 2002, according to its website, ACEDONE has spearheaded several major projects including offering job placements for teenagers, adults, in-house research for solving African immigrant's unique social issues, community micro financing and tackling poverty by tapping local resources.

Recognizing the tireless contributions from the young college students, Mr. Hussein praised Somali girls for their focus in education and commitments for self-improvements. "Everywhere I go, it's the girls who achieve the most; what happen to you boys?" he asked, inciting to inspire the boys to excel education and embrace the challenges.

Mentors cued to offer help

As the event unfolded, college mentors from UMass Boston and Boston College, a dozen of experienced students offered various advises and recommendations, ranging from schools to majors, and from financial aid to other college-pertinent information.

Astur Yasin, biochemistry major at UMass, has promised mentorship support for high school seniors. Next in line was Muno, who majors criminal justice from UMass. She has volunteered for the mayor's office and urged students to familiarize themselves in the numerous resources in the city that can enrich their experiences.

Among the mentors was Ambaro, a young middle-school-looking girl, who surprised the high school students when she stood to introduce herself as another mentor, sharing with them insights about university life. Also, Christine of Boston College, who is an American, has unveiled some winning strategies that are crucial for potential college students, including SAT prep techniques to score high on the tests and other exams necessary for high school seniors.

Students felt ambitious

But for some high school students, mentors could offer little help. Mohamoud Ahmed, 15, of Jamaica Plain's English High School is in 10th grade. "I want to study Chemical Engineering" said Ahmed, fielding a question about his future ambitions after high school.

Ahmed Ali, 18, is a senior student at Charlestown High School. He was feathered in Boston Globe's City and Region section last month for his track and field achievements in New England. "I like to attend events like this. Its great to listen from our elders and Somali mentors who understand our issues" expressed Ali, whose goal is to become a professional long-distance runner.

Ali has brought several trophies for his school and he enjoys the support of Sa'ed Hassan, who, according to sources, is likely to secure a couching position from Charlestown High for track and field athletes. "I am also planning to attend college in the fall. I am lucky to have a lot of options available to me" added Ali, who came to America three years ago.

Keynaan Abdulkadir is a 10th grader at Cambridge. Talkative, bright and confident in his introduction, he said he wants to be a lawyer. During the quick dinner break, Yahye Jama, 16, told me that he was invited by a college mentor. Sitting next to Yusuf Abdulle, nibbling a delicious Sambosa on his hand, Jama has a dream of becoming "an Engineer." "My favorite subject is math, and I also enjoy other classes" said Jama, a 10th grader from English High School.

"I thank individuals like Brother Mohamed Farah, (known as MJ) for his constant encouragements as student at Bunker Hill Community College" said Shukri Ali who organized the event. "At BHCC, he was a helpful source of support and everything to us. Every one of us who enrolled BHCC knows him not only because he works at the Financial Office, but he supported us mentally and instilled us valuable principles for our success in education" said Ali with emotions, thanking all those who attended the event and urging young people to take education seriously.

The HOL contacted Mr. Farah for remarks, and he said, "Education is the way out if you have the commitment, you have everything available to you. The reason why I mentor these kids is because I believe the power of mentorship." Mr. MJ has graduated last month from UMass Boston with Masters in Education. According one of his friends, "MJ is a major advocate for education that you can't engage with him in conversation without him mentioning something about education or business. He is a believer of education."

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Prepared for Hol By:- Ibrahim Abdulkadir
Boston, MA

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