After she graduated from college, Mo Abdullahi’s mother watched her country crumble. At 19, she fled Somalia and gave birth to him in a Kenyan refugee camp.
“She was brave enough to leave everything she knew to give me an opportunity at a future,” he said. “Ever since I was a young child, she instilled within me the belief that all things get better with education.”
Mo pointed out that even though his mother’s college degree was nullified when she fled from the war, she continued to believe very deeply in higher learning. After the two immigrated to the U.S., he grew up in low-income housing, with many differences separating him from the other students.
“Even though these traits set me apart from the rest of my classmates for the majority of my life, I knew that I belonged in the classroom,” Mo said. “I hope to someday follow in my mother’s footsteps by acquiring something that nobody can ever take away from me—an education.”
Eventually he enrolled at Renton Technical College in Washington, while working to support himself and his mother.
While attending Renton, Mo was inducted into Phi Theta Kappa, became an Executive Board Member in Associated Student Government, and served as a tutor in the Lead program. A computer science major, he also started CHIPS, a free student-run computer repair service for students. The service has fixed more than 500 computers on campus since it was started.
“Working in the Learning Resource and Career Center has been an amazing experience,” Mo said. “I have been able to meet many people and help them reach their academic goals.”
He added that being bilingual has also helped him to welcome new immigrants to the U.S. and to the world of higher learning.
“I wish to spend the next few years of my life gaining as much knowledge as possible,” Mo said. “Being in higher learning has exposed me to concepts and ideas I had never considered.”
He has earned a 3.75 grade point average and was recognized this week as Washington’s New Century Scholar, a member of the All-USA Community College Academic Team, and the 2017 David Pierce Scholar—receiving a total of $8,000 in scholarships.
“Receiving a scholarship through Phi Theta Kappa affords me some form of relief and provides me with the morale boost that I am not alone in my journey,” Mo said. “That people believe in me as much as I believe in myself.”
He also addressed community college presidents at Phi Theta Kappa’s annual Presidents Breakfast held at the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) annual convention in New Orleans, Louisiana, April 24.
“I hope to one day bring Internet access, which would grant access to knowledge, to the most impoverished places in the world.” Mo said. “I truly believe that education is the best way to change the trajectory of your life, and I hope to make it accessible to everyone.”