Hawa Ahmed (CLAS ’15) was born in a refugee camp on the border of Chad and Niger when her parents fled their home after a military coup in Chad. With help from Catholic Charities USA, her family settled in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, in 1997.
“Some kids always know they will go to college,” said Ahmed. “I didn’t always know that.” But with a need-based scholarship Ahmed was able to attend U.Va. She threw herself into a flurry of service activities, including serving as co-chair of ADAPT, a student-run alcohol and drug abuse prevention program; a Class of 2015 Trustee, and a member of a University taskforce exploring the reasons behind lagging minority and low-income student enrollment.
The summer after her second year at U.Va. she rode her bicycle more than 4,000 miles across the United States. Averaging 80 miles a day, she biked for 11½ weeks to raise money and awareness for affordable housing.
Ahmed is majoring in politics and studying French and Arabic. She’s enjoyed a number of her classes at U.Va., perhaps none more than a graduate education class taught by Ben Castleman, who is assistant professor of education in the Curry School of Education and also teaches in the Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy. Castleman’s research explores ways to improve college access and success for low-income students. “That class shaped my future career ambitions,” said Ahmed, who plans a career in college advising, helping other low-income, outstanding high school students.
“College is a time of transformation in your thinking, your perspective, your understanding of the world and your understanding of yourself,” she said. “It’s a time when you learn that with hard work and a little bit of help from others, dreams are attainable.”
“By giving back to the University, we’re passing on the torch that’s been passed on to us,” Ahmed said. “We inherited the school from the students who studied here before us, and contributed, and went on to graduate and do good things. Now it’s up to us to think about what we should leave for the next generation.”
Hawa Ahmed (CLAS ’15)
Major: Politics; also studying French and Arabic
See: Her TEDxCharlottesville talk, College made me rich
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