Real Life was born in 2010 through the leadership of Ellie Seaborn, Youthlinc employee at the time, who through her service in the community identified the need to support refugee youth in Salt Lake. Through a partnership with Domoina Kendell from Promise South Salt Lake, Youthlinc launched the first Real Life site at the Hser Ner Moo Center. Since then, with the backing of community partnerships and generous donors, Real Life has expanded to 14 locations, serving over 500+ students and engaging 120 volunteers annually.

Real Life was born with the aim to equip students with essential life skills, including language, financial literacy, team building, and interpersonal skills. In 2018, under the direction of Shelly Burningham, the past Real Life Director, Youthlinc initiated a job and college readiness curriculum and implemented the first awarding of the Real Life Scholarship. This year, Youthlinc is proud to announce the award of $32,000 in scholarships to ten deserving Real Life program participants.

Etho Yohana – Salt Lake Community College $2,000 Scholarship

Etho was born in Nyarugusu camp in Tanzania. Born into a family that fled the war in Congo, Etho experienced hardship and loss at a young age, including the tragic deaths of her twin sister and older sibling due to lack of access to medical care. These experiences have inspired Etho to make a difference in the lives of others and pursue a career in healthcare. Life in Tanzania was difficult, with limited access to education and necessities. Etho took on responsibilities caring for her siblings and even accompanying them to the hospital when they fell ill. Etho and her family were granted the opportunity to resettle in the United States in 2019. Since arriving in Utah, Etho has embraced her education with fervor, overcoming language barriers and adjusting to a new school environment. Etho’s dedication to her studies remains unwavering, driving her to commute long distances each day to attend a school that supports her aspirations. She sees this as a chance to not only further her own education but also to support her family and contribute to her community.

Mariam Shego – Hunter High School $2,000 Winner

Mariam Shego is from Kenya and moved to the United States at the age of 8. This marked the beginning of her family’s pursuit of educational opportunities. Despite facing initial challenges such as financial constraints and transportation difficulties upon their arrival in 2016, Mariam remains steadfast in her dream to get an education and has embraced the opportunities that have come her way. Mariam seeks to pursue higher education and fulfill her dreams in the medical field. Her aspiration to become a midwife stem from her passion for helping others, particularly babies, which she has helped to nurture since childhood. Mariam’s commitment to serving her community reflects her intrinsic desire to make a positive impact and find happiness in helping those around her.

ChitChit Poe – Utah International Charter School $2,500 Winner

Chitchit Poe is a refugee from Burma, where her family, like many Karen people, sought refuge in Thailand to escape ethnic cleansing and civil war. Growing up in a refugee camp, Chitchit witnessed the struggles of her parents to provide for their large family, relying on weaving and hunting for survival. Despite inadequate education and limited opportunities in the camp, Chitchit’s carries an unwavering determination to succeed. In 2019, her family was resettled in the United States, where Chitchit faced new hurdles and language barrier for her education. Motivated by her mother’s encouragement and her own aspirations for a better future, Chitchit overcame her academic setbacks and graduated from high school. With a desire to pursue a career as a radiation therapist, Chitchit aims to make a difference in the lives of others, inspired by the challenges faced by her own family members battling cancer. Through extracurricular activities like starting a STEM club for girls, Chitchit demonstrates her commitment to personal growth and community impact. She envisions using her education and experiences to give back to her community and help those facing similar challenges.

Olive Nyiramwiza – University of Utah $2,500 Winner

As a student at the University of Utah, Olive’s aspirations center around earning a bachelor’s degree in Family, Community, and Human Development to uplift vulnerable populations, especially youth with refugee backgrounds. Olive is driven to understand the complexities of family and community dynamics to contribute positively to the development of children. Her commitment extends to actively participating in coursework, hands-on experiences, and engaging in discussions to deepen her knowledge in this field. With a vision for community leadership, Olive plans to pursue graduate studies to further empower herself with the expertise needed to advocate for marginalized groups effectively. Olive’s ultimate aspiration is to promote educational equity, particularly for youth from refugee backgrounds, by serving as an advocate and role model. She is committed to breaking down barriers to higher education and inspiring others to pursue their dreams.

Nastaran Shahidi – Olympus High School $3,000 Winner

Nastaran Shahidi is from Iran. After relocating to Czechoslovakia at a young age, she faced uncertainty while residing in a camp before immigrating to the United States in 2014. Despite initial challenges navigating a new language and culture in America, Nastaran found solace in the kindness of a classmate who became a friend throughout elementary, middle, and high school. She faced bullying for wearing a hijab, but she persevered with the support of her friend. Throughout her youth, Nastaran took on adult responsibilities, assisting her mother with translation and administrative tasks. Even amidst the disruption of the COVID-19 pandemic, Nastaran remained dedicated to her studies and familial responsibilities, emerging stronger and more resilient. As she approaches graduation from Olympus High School, Nastaran is poised for the next chapter in her life, filled with determination and optimism. With gratitude for the support of loved ones and the lessons learned along the way, she embraces the opportunities that lie ahead.

Hsar Wah – West High School $3,500 Winner

Hsar Wah’s parents fled Burma to escape the horrors of ethnic cleansing and civil war, finding refuge in the Umpiem refugee camp in Thailand. They faced persecution from the Burmese Military and lived a fearful life. Hsar’s parents remained resilient, instilling in her a deep sense of gratitude and determination. Their sacrifices and unwavering commitment to education laid the foundation for her academic success. Upon arriving in the United States, Hsar and her family faced new obstacles as refugees, relying on the support of their community. Now a student at West High, Hsar balances her studies with caring for her daughter. Despite the challenges that come with motherhood, she remains determined to pursue her dream of becoming a radiologist, Hsar plans to attend Salt Lake Community College and transfer to the University of Utah. Hsar is committed to her educational journey and setting an example for her daughter. She aspires to make a positive impact in the field of medicine, using her experiences as a refugee to inspire others and help families in need.

Tresor Shukuru – Salt Lake Community College $3,500 Winner

Tresor Shukuru was born in a refugee camp in Burundi to parents who had fled the civil conflict in Congo. Camp life was filled with hardships with scarcity of food, unclean water, and inadequate healthcare. Supported by organizations like the International Organization for Migration, Tresor and his family were able to resettle to the United States. Upon arriving in the USA, Tresor struggled with illness and the loss of his grandmother. Despite these setbacks, he remained focused on his education, recognizing its importance for himself and his family. Tresor is determined to graduate from Salt Lake Community College and pursue a degree in Computer Science, fulfilling his passion for coding and game development. Tresor sees his education as a pathway to a better future. He aims to excel in data analysis and cybersecurity. Tresor remains steadfast in his pursuit of educational and career goals. His journey as a refugee has strengthened and instilled in him the belief that success is attainable.

Nazifa Bahati – Salt Lake Community College $4,000 Winner

Nazifa Bahati is from a small village in Congo. Her aspiration to become a doctor is marked by tragedy and resilience. Witnessing the devastating effects of war and lack of access to healthcare, Nazifa promised herself to one day make a difference in the lives of others. Fleeing the violence in the Congo, Nazifa and her family found refuge in Burundi, facing new challenges and the loss of her father along the way. Upon arriving in the United States, Nazifa seized the opportunity to pursue her dream, enrolling in high school and excelling academically. Recognizing the importance of community and giving back, she volunteered as a peer mentor and graduated with honors. She plans to attend Salt Lake Community College before transferring to a university for her bachelor’s degree. Nazifa is committed to her path of making a difference in women’s health with her dreams to become a Midwife. Her passion for providing compassionate care to expectant mothers and her desire to make a meaningful impact on women’s health drive her forward.

Shakira Abdul – Utah International Charter School $4,000 Winner

Shakira Abdul is from the Congo, where she faced the harsh realities of war. Her family moved to Uganda for her mother’s medical treatment, where Shakira found herself orphaned and struggling to survive with her widowed aunt and siblings. They faced financial hardship and periods of hunger. In 2013, Shakira’s family sought refuge in Rhino camp through the United Nations Immigration Program, receiving necessities like food and education. However, life in the camp was hard with poor housing conditions to widespread disease outbreaks. In 2019, Shakira and her family immigrated to the USA. They faced new challenges including language barriers and cultural adjustments. Despite these obstacles, Shakira embraced opportunities for education and community involvement, participating in various programs to enhance her skills and support her peers. Shakira is determined to maintain her academic excellence, aspiring to become a gynecologist to serve women in need of healthcare. She envisions using her education to uplift her community, particularly refugees and people of color. Shakira hopes to inspire others to persevere in the face of adversity and pursue their dreams regardless of their background.

Ulana Nasib – Salt Lake Community College $5,000 Winner

Ulana Nasib’s family was originally from Somalia, but she was born in Tanzania due to war. During her time in Tanzania, she lost a brother and her father disappeared for over seven years. This was a tragic time for her family, especially her mother. Eventually her family found refuge in Kenya, where her grandmother lived. At the age of 10, Ulana immigrated to the United States with her mother and siblings, seeking opportunities for education and a better life. Despite adversities, Ulana remains strong in her determination to get an education. Driven by her mother’s emphasis on education, Ulana is the first in her family to pursue higher education. Her goal is to earn an associate degree in computer science from Salt Lake Community College before transferring to the University of Utah for her bachelor’s degree. Passionate about web development and coding, Ulana seeks her education to fulfill her family’s dreams and secure a brighter future. She aspires to become a web developer, creating innovative websites, streaming content, and mobile applications.

This scholarship would not be possible without the generous support of the Low Family Foundation, Merrick Bank, and the Barker Charitable Foundation. We extend our deepest gratitude to them for their unwavering commitment and their continued support for the program.

Meet Our 2024 Real Life Scholarship Winners
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