Event encourages Somali students to consider college

by Geoffrey Ziezulewicz

Nimco Ali, a Roosevelt High School student, said she wants to go to a big college with strong accounting and finance schools.

“But I will not go to Normandale (Community College),” Ali said.

Ali was one of more than 20 students attending Somali Education Night on Thursday, an event held to help Somali high school students navigate the college application process. It is the event’s second year.

Mahamoud Wardere, one of the event’s organizers, said the event fulfills many Somali community needs.

“The target is Somali students in high school and their parents,” Wardere said. He added that energizing and encouraging high school students to go to college is of the utmost importance. Also, he said, “it’s another good reason to celebrate.”

Numerous local colleges were on hand at the event.

Somalia has been ripped apart by more than a decade of lawlessness and civil war, and as a result, many Somalis have relocated to the Twin Cities.

Besides getting Somali high school students on the right educational track, Wardere said, the education forum is a good way for Somali students to take note of the older community members’ accomplishments.

One of the elders hoping to edge Somali youth toward college is Ali Galaydh, prime minister of Somalia from 2000-01.

“It’s a good way to give graduating students help in figuring where they are at,” Galaydh said. “They have been leading a sheltered life, now they will move towards college life.”

Galaydh said the same skills needed to succeed in college are those needed to succeed in life.

“I want to share with them in terms of focusing and discipline,” he said.

Galaydh said the biggest challenge to Somali youth going into higher education is living in the United States instead of their native country.

“Unfortunately, they are forced to live here,” he said. “They had to leave and come here when they were very young.”

Most Somali students’ parents are not as assimilated to U.S. culture as their children, Galaydh said.

“A lot of the parents are not familiar with what college is about,” he said. “There is a generalized need for a better support network to help the youth get perspective about college.”

Wardere agreed with Galaydh.

“Some students can’t get homework help from their parents because they don’t speak English,” he said. “We just want them to know about the numerous resources available at universities.”

Wardere said he also hopes to see more current Somali college students mentoring those still in high school.

“There are Somali students at the university level who are smart and willing,” he said. “We want them to help.”

Wardere said he and other Somali elders and community leaders realize the importance of education to their community.

“We as a community have noticed that the biggest discrimination in the United States is that of knowledge,” he said. “Everything is determined by how much knowledge you have. If you have that, you can overcome any kind of problem.”

Jama Mohamed, a first-year student at the Minneapolis Community and Technical College, said he and his high school friends have post-graduation plans.

“We’re going to rebuild Somalia,” Mohamed said. “Me and five friends. That’s what we want to do.”