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Humans of the U: Abukar Hassan

“My first memory of being in Utah after emigrating from a hot, humid country like Egypt was seeing white particles drifting down from the sky and not knowing what they were. It was November, 2007, and we had just arrived in one of the biggest snowstorms in Utah’s history, I found out later. That was just the beginning of the challenges for my mom, six siblings and me.

I was five years old, and we spoke very little English and didn’t have a penny to our name. But somehow, my mom entered us into a lottery that allowed us to move to America and find a better life. I remember in kindergarten my mom would wake up at 4 or 5 a.m. to make us breakfast and lunch, and then she was gone by 5:30 a.m. and the babysitter would come and take us to school. I did my homework after school and didn’t see my mom again until 6 or 7 p.m., when she would come home and cook dinner for us and go to bed by 8 or 9 p.m. and do it all again the next day.

That was years of just cranking that out, working to get citizenship for all of us, helping us through school, putting us in extra classes to catch up. On her only day off, she taught other refugees how to cook. That’s when I fell in love with public service.

As a recipient of the Obama-Chesky Scholarship for Public Service, I want to use the opportunities I’ve received to help others. I am a First Ascent Scholar and double major in finance and entrepreneurship in the David Eccles School of Business. I hope to teach immigrants and refugees about wealth management and how to invest money successfully.

I found out I received the Voyager Scholarship just after I got home from work, as I was sitting down to eat dinner. I saw an email from the Obama Foundation that said, ‘Congratulations,’ and I just tossed my phone and started screaming. I didn’t tell her I applied for the scholarship, but when I explained it to her, the excitement in her face made it worth 10 times more.

I was a troubled kid growing up, I couldn’t pronounce my K’s and I had extra help learning how to write and read. At the time I used to complain, but I am so glad my mom made me go through that process. Someday — soon — I’d like to help my mom retire.”

-Abukar Hassan, Voyager Scholarship recipient