By: Shelly Burningham

Photo credit and initial content provided by: Nick Sokoloff – The New Americans of Salt Lake

Ibrahim Ramazani – Country of Origin: Malawi

I am a refugee from a Malawi refugee camp. I was born in Burundi, Bujumbura and have been in the United States for seven years now.

When my family and I arrived in Utah, we had to learn a new language, culture, and way of living. When I started school, I did not speak any English. The only thing I knew how to say to people was “hi.” In school, I would get very frustrated to the point where I would sit in the back of class and cry, but I did not let my language barrier and cultural differences become an anchor in my journey. Instead, I found a way to use my challenges to push me to work hard and I excelled in my academics.

My goal is to one day become a great lawyer or doctor, with a lot to offer my community in the United States and Africa.

I am currently in my third year of college at the University of Utah.  I am studying Political Science with an emphasis in International Relations.  The scholarship helped me to finish my last year at Salt Lake Community College.  I am currently working at Redwing Shoe Company.  I am also a Real Life Intern at Youthlinc. 

Innocent: Country of Origin: Democratic Republic of Congo

I was forced to flee my country, live in a camp for three years and yet, I have never given up. I lost my dad and grandparents and faced adversity in coming to this country, but I have succeeded still and will continue to work hard to achieve my goals.

I was born in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and came to the United States in 2017 when I was 17 years old. Up to that point in my life, I had learned very little English and was unfamiliar with American culture. When I first came here, it was difficult to communicate with my classmates and understand the concepts my teachers taught. It was difficult to attend school in a place where it was almost impossible for me to communicate clearly and express the things that I wanted to say. Initially, it was especially hard for me to make new friends. Over time, I learned how to communicate my thoughts and feelings and express myself in ways that would allow me to make new friends and meet new people.

Because of the efforts of many wonderful teachers, it now seems possible that I can pursue a career in business. After finishing my higher education, I plan to use the skills and education I receive to open a business that will employ people who have backgrounds similar to mine; refugees, immigrants, and others who would have a hard time finding a job.

Receiving this scholarship helped me to pay for my first year of college.  I completed the first year and I am in the second year at Salt Lake Community College.  I am studying to be a physical therapist assistant.  I am currently working at CTA Community Support.

Kadi - Country of Origin: Mali

My dad won the visa lottery and we emigrated to the United States when I was only five years old. Growing up in the U.S., I experienced a lot of discrimination and Islamophobia in and outside of my community. My experiences as a young person taught me to pay attention and become committed to civil liberty issues.

Coming from a household that doesn’t have much, and sometimes not being able to afford basic needs, is really difficult. I’ve wondered how it would feel to walk in someone else’s shoes who has everything – someone who doesn’t have to worry about school lunch and supplies.

December 15, 2017 was the most devastating moment for me and my family. My brother got extremely sick and was diagnosed with cancer. He was in and out of the hospital for almost 14 months. My brother fought a long, hard battle until January 21, 2018 when he passed away. That day I not only lost my brother, but my best friend who helped me become the strong, brave person and activist I am today.

Still, despite such devastating moments, I remained optimistic and strong because my brother had always taught me to remember that there’s always a light at the end of the tunnel. 

I am currently working at the Humanitarian Center as a teacher.  I am in my second year at Salt Lake Community College and will be graduating in May 2021.  I will then be going to the University of Utah majoring in International Global Studies.  I would like to thank Real Life for this scholarship.  It helped me and my family enormously and helped me build a career path for myself.  This scholarship has helped me get a better education and I have been able to make my dreams come true.

Abdul - Country of Origin: Afghanistan

I am from a place where being alive depends on luck; I am from Afghanistan. The climate is very unstable; I lived on the line between life and death, and there was no way to predict it. I am grateful to be alive and am proud and happy to be in the USA. I want to correctly use my opportunity of being here, and I want to reach the highest part of my goals, which is to go through medical school. I want to focus on my education so I can be a positive and helpful person to society. I was born to a bright family who knew the value of knowledge and education. 

I came to the USA in February 2018 directly from Afghanistan.  I was excited to be in the USA and I had high expectations of being able to achieve great things. Being in the USA is a goal and dream of everyone, but only some lucky people can be here. We waited two years to receive the visa. During the two years, we always checked our email and called to check about our visa. They always told us: “We are in the process and it will take some time.” But it is very hard to wait for something that is so important to you. Finally, after two years, we received our visa and we were very happy that we were going to the USA. I will keep working hard to make my family, people, and lovely homeland proud. I will show the world with my knowledge and achievements that anything is possible.

I am a sophomore at Salt Lake Community College and will graduate in the Spring of 2021 and transfer to the University of Utah.  I will be majoring in Biology.  I am working at Intermountain Health Care as an Endoscopy Technician.  Being awarded the Real Life Scholarship helped me obtain the certificate I needed to get the job where I am working now.  It allowed me to finish my classes on time and pursue knowledge.

2019 Real Life Scholarship Winners – What are they doing now?
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