Somali student’s uplifting story from Ifo camp to class president of her Boston high school

Fatuma Mohamed was the class president of high school in Boston and led the school debate team. [Photo by Delores Handy/WBUR]

Fatuma Mohamed was the class president of high school in Boston and led the school debate team. [Photo by Delores Handy/WBUR]

Fatuma Mohamed has been in the United States for only nine years. But what this young student, who came from Ifo refugee camp when she was 10 years old, did in those few years is quite phenomenal to say the least.

Fatuma was born in Ifo camp in Kenya after her parents fled the civil war in their country, Somalia. In 2006, her family resettled in a town in Massachusetts.

“I was the only Muslim student in my middle school, and a lot of times it felt isolating being the only Muslim student in middle school,” Fatuma told WBUR, Boston’s NPR news station. “But I’ve learned it’s who I am and I shouldn’t be changing it for other people. That gives me a sense of identity is part of who I am.”

Her family later moved to Boston, Massachusetts’ capital and largest city, after Fatuma reached high school.

“She’s been intense,” said Stephanie Sibley, principal of Excel High School. “She’s one of those students who found her voice through debate.”

Fatuma led the school debate team because that challenged her academically. “A different form of academic challenge,” she said, “where you had to learn how to persuade people and be able to research a topic and just it helped me grow a lot as a person”

Sibley said Fatuma is passionate about social justice and women’s issues. “She’s just been a trailblazer in our school,” the headmaster said according to WBUR.

At her school, Fatuma organized a student response to the Black Lives Matter movement.

“Being able to understand all the different ways in which Black Lives Matter, and they do not matter right now in our society, is important,” she said.

Fatuma had received a full scholarship to several universities, but she chose to attend a college in Boston.

“I will be attending Northeastern University as an undeclared student in
the College of Social Science and Humanities on a prelaw track,” she said. “So whatever path that eventually ends me up in law school is where I will be.”

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