Fatouma (SUNY Oneonta)

Fatouma began one of her essays this way: “I come from Niger, where people believe it’s not worth spending money on girls’ educations. Yet I have wanted to go to college since I was 7 years old.” Her family all but unanimously wanted her to follow tradition and marry a husband who had been chosen for her when she turned 14. The sole exception was her college-educated grandmother, who encouraged her to hold on to her dream of education. Fatouma ended her essay with these words: “I want to make my parents proud. I promised myself that this sacrifice will not be for nothing. I will move heaven and earth to be successful.” Helping her realize her ambition have been her teachers and fellow students at English Language Learners and International Support Preparatory High School in the Bronx, where she has been studying for the last three years. “I found a family there,” Fatouma says. Describing Fatouma’s essay on breaking from her traditions to become an educated, independent woman who did not need to depend on others for her survival, one of her teachers wrote: “These were powerful words from a powerful young lady.”  Fatouma’s goal, fueled by a fulltime summer internship at Columbia doing research in chemical engineering, is the world of medicine. Her next step takes her to SUNY Oneonta.