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Sabrina’s Second Home in YWCA Eureka! STEM Program

By YWCA Minneapolis
May 30, 2017
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Sabrina Mohamed is 15 years old and a freshman at Cristo Rey Jesuit High School. “At YWCA Girls Inc., I learned to open up to different perspectives and not be close-minded. I learned that I don’t have to stick to the one way I had been taught. And I realized that I had to get an education.”

Sabrina lives in an East African community in Minneapolis with her mom and sister, Helen, who’s in seventh grade.

“My mother grew up in Ethiopia with 13 siblings. Then a terrible war broke out — two of her brothers were buried alive in front of my grandma and my mother’s other nine siblings died from unknown reasons. Only she and her sister survived. My grandma became mentally ill from witnessing her two sons being killed. My mother raised herself and made it to the United States as part of a refugee group at age 17. She lived alone in this new country and worked at the airport for 15 years.” Today, Sabrina’s mother works as an interpreter and at a coffee shop at Fairview hospital.

Sabrina’s parents divorced when she was two years old, and she doesn’t see her father. She helped her mother a lot and learned to change her sister’s diapers at the age of three.

Sabrina went to Seward Montessori from kindergarten through eighth grade. She was the quiet kid at school. “I had friends, but I wasn’t close with them.” Then in fifth grade she was introduced to the YWCA Girls Inc. Afterschool program“My group leader was a strong, independent, African American woman. She had experienced a lot in life and would talk to us about discrimination. She taught me not to be embarrassed about how I dress and told me, ‘Wear what you want. Don’t let others influence you. If you want to wear your hijab, wear it!’”

Sabrina learned to build her confidence in her girls group. Sabrina’s seventh grade science teacher told her about a YWCA Eureka! STEM program. There was an information session during lunch and her teacher wanted her to attend. “At first I said, ‘No, I’m not so sure about that.’ But he told me there would be pizza so, I thought I would go and check it out. It was really fun! We did a lot of STEM activities.”

Sabrina started Eureka! in the summer of 2015. It’s a five-year STEM program and there are 27 girls in her cohort. “We’ve all become very close, it’s like my second home. It’s great to have friends outside my school.”

During Eureka!, Sabrina spent summer mornings in 2015 and 2016 at the University of Minnesota College of Science and Engineering, taught by professors. “Last summer we printed bracelets with a 3D printer and saw a machine that keeps a heart pumping after it’s taken out of a body to be donated to a new person. That was the grossest, coolest machine ever.”

Afternoons were at YWCA Midtown for swimming lessons. “Fridays we went on amazing field trips, like the Mayo Clinic and Boston Scientific. I met this woman engineer and we had a long conversation about her job, and her experiments with chemicals and robots. She shared she was the only girl in her engineering class and more girls need to be engineers, especially girls of color. She told us not to give up just because it was hard. I promised her I would try my best.”

During the school year Sabrina’s Eureka! group meets monthly. “One time we did a speed networking event. That was so fun because I really love talking to people.”

Summer 2017 will be Sabrina’s third year of Eureka! and she’s doing an internship. She wants to use her communication skills, do hands-on activities and computer coding.

“In my own community, people know I’m pretty outspoken. That’s not always liked because I’m a girl. I protested at the state Capitol with my mother to raise awareness about the persecution of the Oromo people in East Africa. Oromo people are being killed and suppressed, and their land is being taken away for trying to speak out about their rights. So the least I could do is speak up here in America.”

YWCA has given Sabrina a place to tell her story, build her confidence over time, speak up and become a leader. “My Eureka! group is where I really feel like I fit in and can be myself.”

In East Africa, many girls are not allowed to get an education. “In Minneapolis, I am a role model and look up to Malala Yousafzai. She inspires me to be thankful for my education.”

“After I graduate from high school, I plan to go to Smith College and then medical school at the U of M to become a pharmacist. When I’m 35 years old, I will open a clinic overseas, help educate girls and train women to become doctors.”

“Last summer we talked about racism and who our role models are. Those discussions really impacted my life. I want to work hard and be an inspiration for the oppressed. I was taught to be thankful.”