Fighting through language barriers, societal gender inequality norms and even the COVID-19 pandemic, Tasneem Alahmadi, 22, has not only survived but thrived in her studies. One of eight children, Alahmadi’s family emigrated from the Middle East country of Yemen 10 years ago. Upon arrival in the States, the pre-teen had no experience with the English language. Yet, within six months she learned the basics and began to speak it.
After completing middle school at Bridge Academy West, Alahmadi began high school at Frontier International Academy, in Detroit. By the time she graduated in 2017, she had the distinction of being named an honor roll student each year in attendance.
At the recommendation of several of her siblings, Alahmadi came to Macomb to further her education. Two of her brothers studied at Macomb and have transferred, while another brother and sister are currently attending. Three of her siblings are pursuing medical-related degrees, and Tasneem is also following this path. But for Alahmadi, who hopes to be accepted into Wayne State University’s nursing program, the path forward wasn’t always certain.
“I used to be lost and not sure what [my] major will be,” recounts Alahmadi. “But, as you seek counseling in Macomb and you seek Career Services, they will help you know what you want to be in life.”
Also compounding matters was pressure stemming from the cultural norms in Alahmadi’s home country.
“As a woman, especially from an Arab background, they would prefer the women not to continue [their] education,” notes Alahmadi. “So many people tried to stop me.”
While keeping students on track takes a campus-wide effort involving faculty, staff and leadership from many departments, Alahmadi credits one individual specifically with giving her the motivation she needed to continue, even when she felt like giving up. That person is Daniel Thurman, associate dean of Student Success.
“I went through a very hard time, and I thought I’m not good enough. And I had all that negativity in my brain ‘til I met Mr. Thurman,” relates Alahmadi. “He gives me advice to improve, and when I [was] also overwhelmed with school and about to give up, he inspired me […] to finish the road I started.”
That road, the path forward, includes a first-hand experience with the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I was recommended to tutor psychology,” tells Alahmadi, “and the day I was going to do that […], COVID happened.”
And then Alahmadi contracted the virus. Thankfully, with the flexibility of online classes and the support of the college, she was able to persist. Further help from Daniel Thurman ensured she was granted an extension on her final exams so she could complete her semester while recovering.
“I was very happy [with] how things went very smoothly for me,” says Alahmadi, as a “student that went from [on-campus] classes to online and also having COVID.”