Our former participant Habiba graduated from George Mason University in December and we couldn’t be prouder! Watch a video about Habiba and read her inspiring story:
My husband and I moved here from Ethiopia together. He won the diversity lottery and was allowed to bring me with him. We moved here knowing no one except a few friends, and we had nowhere to live. Our friends let us stay with them for a few months, but then we had nowhere to go, we didn’t speak English at all, and I was expecting my first child.
We moved into Sullivan House in 2009 and it was such a blessing. We lived there for 7 or 8 months, and I was so glad to be safe and have a home. Bridges helped my husband find a job here in the U.S. He had been working so hard to find a job, with no success. He had an interview for a job in food service at a hospital, and his Bridges case manager Emma went with him to the interview and convinced them to hire him! She told them he was a hard worker and the only problem was that he didn’t speak English. He got the job and ended up working there for 3 years!
I was so lucky to be able to enroll in teen parenting school. That’s where I learned English. I started in 10th grade knowing no English, but I pushed myself at school and I also attended Summer School several years in a row. At one point, they wanted me to leave because I was too old (I think I was 21 at that point), but Emma went to see them and convinced them to allow me to stay in school. I was so grateful. I graduated from high school in 2012 and went to NOVA where I was a pre-nursing student and I was able to earn some money through a work-study program. I graduated from NOVA with an Associate’s degree in 2014 (and a GPA of 3.88). My second child was born in 2014, so I was busy!
I started at George Mason University in 2015, majoring in Health Administration and I graduated on December 21, 2017, with a 3.85 GPA! While I was in school, I volunteered with the VA Hospital, did an internship at INOVA, and for the past year and a half, I’ve had an internship with the federal government at the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation. I always strive to do my best. In my classes, I always aim for an A and try to take advantage of all opportunities available to me.
Looking back on my time at Sullivan House, the staff did so much for me. They helped me graduate from high school, helped my husband find a job, helped us find an apartment and arranged for our rental subsidy. I remember attending lectures, workshops and training while we were in the shelter. There were a lot of resources available to us and the people at Bridges continue to be very helpful and to be there for us.
My advice to people going through tough times is to stay encouraged, never lose hope, and always take advantage of the resources and opportunities offered to you. That’s what I have tried to do.
Today, I am a college graduate and my husband has been working for Enterprise Rent-A-Car for 3 years. He takes care of our children and has been right by my side while I went through school. He is the reason I am graduating from college. With my new degree, my job prospects are good and I am ready to start volunteering and helping others, like people helped me. I want to give back, not just to Bridges to Independence, but to Arlington County. I am here because of both of them.
After graduating in December, Habiba received a fantastic job offer and is happily working at her new job! She is truly an inspiration to all of us here at Bridges to Independence.