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A New Outlook on Education

After living in an Ethiopian refugee camp her whole life, Shugri Mohamed moved to Syracuse, New York, in September 2012 through the Syracuse Refugee Assistance Program.

A Somali native, Shugri and her entire family were displaced when civil war broke out in 1991. While living in the refugee camp, she took classes and learned to read and write in her native language, Somali. She lacked motivation to do well, however, because opportunities in the Horn of Africa are severely limited. Women are even more limited in workforce opportunities because they are expected to marry early and take care of children.

“Somali women stop their education at 18 because they get married. Once they’re married, they no longer care about learning. Many can’t even write their name,” says Shugri.

Coming to the United States has changed Shugri’s outlook on both life and education. Shortly after arriving in Syracuse, she was placed in English language classes at a public school in the Syracuse City School District. After learning about the many job opportunities that people in the United States have, Shugri became much more motivated in her studies. She now wishes she had taken advantage of the English language books available in the refugee camp.

“I didn’t like studying in Ethiopia because it wouldn’t have led to a job or to success. In America, an education means a better job. I want to go to college and become a nurse,” says Shugri.

When she first moved to Syracuse, Shugri could only communicate with other Somali speakers. Even communicating with others in the Syracuse Refugee Assistance Program was difficult because everyone 

comes from different countries. In fact, one of the first English phrases she learned after arriving was, “I don’t understand.”

But Shugri’s hard work and dedication is paying off. After only 10 months of English language classes, her skills have drastically improved. Going grocery shopping or reading a bus schedule used to be impossible, but now she can do both without any help. When she’s not in class, she continues to hone her new skills by reading books and practicing her computer skills.

At the end of May 2013, Shugri started coming to ProLiteracy to continue her English literacy classes and also start her path towards obtaining a GED certificate. At ProLiteracy, Shugri studies reading, writing, math, science, and history.

“I enjoy coming to ProLiteracy. I am confident in my ability to learn,” says Shugri.

“Shugri has accomplished so much,” says Linda Smith, her instructor. “She studies a lot and has set goals for herself. Once she gets an education, no one will be able to take it away from her.”

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