Asma and Anisa’s journey began with Big Brothers Big Sister of Utah nine years ago when they were six years old; since then, they have consistently had “Big Sisters” supporting them. This year, when they entered High School they transitioned to the Mentor 2.0 program, which focuses on college readiness and success for high school students, particularly those who would become first-generation college students. Recently they decided they wanted to “open the eyes of other people” and help others by becoming mentors themselves.
The twin sisters’ parents are Somali refugees who escaped to Kenya, before making their way to the United States. The girls were born in Utah, but as Anisa stated, “I was born here, but I felt like a refugee growing up.” The girls attribute much of their early struggles to the English language barrier. At a young age they became determined to speak the language fluently without an accent. “My mentor encouraged me to study English after school, would help me with difficult pronunciations, and always told me to continue working hard,” said Asma. The sisters worked diligently with their mentors and in the ESL coursework offered at their school. Having achieved their goal of English fluency, they are proud that they are no longer enrolled in ESL in high school.
Both Asma and Anisa have set their sights on a new goal – they both hope to attend the University of Utah and prepare for careers in Medicine. Their Mentor 2.0 mentors assist them in preparing for this goal.
“I want to be a doctor and more specifically a surgeon,” said Asma. “I watch YouTube videos about surgery, which is kind of nerdy, but I love it.” Asma’s mentor Gayle has been instrumental in helping her find a path to college, doing everything from giving her advice on how to receive financial aid, to sharing her own daughter’s experience in becoming a pharmacist. Recently Asma asked Gayle for help learning to manage her homework load for challenging classes including AP Physics and AP History. “I asked her how she studies,” stated Asma. Gayle told her to try studying for 40 minutes and follow this with a ten minute break before studying again. Asma said that not only has the quality of her work improved with this approach, but she’s also less frustrated and happier.
Anisa has received incredible guidance from her mentor Shannon, who works for the College Advising Corps at University of Utah. “Shannon is always sending me great information on workshops to prepare for Premed college coursework and we’ve gone on a lot of campus visits together.” Anisa’s dream is to either be a Pediatric Surgeon or a Pediatrician. The girls are excited to be chasing their dreams, but are also looking forward to helping influence the lives of others. “I needed a lot of extra help when I was younger and now I want to do that for someone else,” stated Anisa.
Last week the girls met their Little Sisters Asia and Ingrid, both first graders in South Salt Lake. We have no doubt these incredible sisters will shine their positive light on the lives of their new Little Sisters.
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