Asma is a freshman at the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee pursuing her degree in social work so that she can help refugees just like herself to be successful and thrive. Her experience as both a refugee and as a volunteer working with the refugee community are the driving factors behind her aspirations.
She grew up in Southeast Burma in the Rakhine camp. There, her family faced mistreatment and inhumane conditions because of their identity as Rohingya: a persecuted Muslim minority group. As a student in this camp, no matter how much effort she put into her education she encountered continuous discrimination from teachers. After five years, her family fled and began a new life in the United States.
Once in the U.S., she experienced the struggles that accompanied learning a new culture and language, which inspired her to volunteer to serve Milwaukee’s refugee community during high school. As a student ambassador and an ESL teacher assistant, she helped scholars complete school assignments and learn English. Helping the community in this way was rewarding and filled her with a sense of purpose, pride, and identity. She knew in order to someday support the refugee community as a social worker, she would have to earn her degree.
When a College Possible coach came to her classroom to talk about the ways College Possible could support first-generation scholars through ACT prep, college selection, essays and scholarships, she applied without a second thought. Throughout high school she worked hard to get into college. By graduation, she had earned seven scholarships and joined programs like the MKE Scholars Program that would allow her to afford college and find additional support. The MKE Scholars Program is an exclusive program for UW-Milwaukee scholars who are also affiliated with a college success program like College Possible Milwaukee.
As a first-year student at UW-Milwaukee, she immediately felt welcomed to the community. Over the summer, she participated in summer transition programming where she took two classes, got acclimated to campus, and met new friends before the fall semester.
Asma hopes that by earning her degree she can be an example to not only her family, but to others who relate to her and set a precedent for change.
“No one in my family has ever received higher education. Attending college is impossible for many low income families because of how expensive it is. I wanted to work hard and show it’s possible if you have the mindset to put effort into this,” says Asma. “My family are blue-collar workers and I’ve seen them working hard every day without rest. My main goal is to give my family a sense of pride and be the first in my family to make changes.”