Beat the Odds 2017: Jawaher Binhamoodah’s Story of Seeking Education and Freedom

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Jawaher Binhamoodah works hard. And while lot of people say they work themselves to the bone, Binhamoodah is working as a Certified Nursing Assistant, a Trained Medication Aide who passes medicine, and going to school at Rochester Community and Technical College (RCTC) to pursue a career as a Registered Nurse.

She worked over Thanksgiving and Christmas to have enough money for the next semester, so when she heard about being one of the Beat the Odds scholarship recipients, worth $2,500, elation ran through her.

“To be honest I still can’t believe it. I keep thinking it’s a dream,” Binhamoodah says.

“I never get that kind of money for free,” she continues. “I always work, do extra shifts. It’s a miracle. I felt God is giving me a lot of chances … he was testing my patience, maybe. I felt relief that someone is believing in me or thinks I can be a good person and continue my education. It felt special.”

Education is something Binhamoodah has always been passionate about.

While some find joy in playing video games or watching TV, Binhamoodah finds it in studying and learning new things, thanks to her high school biology teacher from Kuwait.

“She (Ms. Bashair) always made Biology interesting,” recalls Binhamoodah. “Learning is something fun.”

But her interest in becoming a doctor brought ire from her father. After graduating from high school in Kuwait, Binhamoodah wanted to go to college. But instead she was wed in an arranged marriage, and her father didn’t have money to send her to college.

“My dad couldn’t handle my ambition,” she explains. “I wanted to go to study medicine and go to medical school. I don’t think my dad believed in a girl becoming a doctor, due to the culture and all that stuff. But I don’t know what he was thinking that day; I can’t be in his shoes. For me, I just want to be a success.

“For me to not have that dream kind of broke me down.”

The arranged marriage wasn’t something she wanted either. Binhamoodah eventually got a divorce, set out on her own when she was 21, and later remarried, this time on her own accord.

To get to this point has been hard, but she’s had a lot of supporters, including co-workers, friends, and even the elderly people she took care of every day.

“It was hard and there were times where I was almost giving up, saying, ‘Just give up. You can’t have it back there, you can’t have it now,’” Binhamoodah recalls.

Her support group wouldn’t let her quit.

“They made me feel like, ‘OK, my dream is important too.’ Which gave me the strength to go back to college.”

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Her first week at RCTC was hard. She didn’t know where things were, and having English as a second language didn’t help. She knows all of the Biology terms in Arabic, but not in her new language.

“It was hard but I overcame it,” she says.

Some other things are harder to overcome. Binhamoodah wants to reconnect with her father. She still respects her father and their differences, but she realizes they are both stubborn.

“I can’t say we’re in a good place, but it’s better than it was six years ago,” she admits. “I understand. He’s a father and he wanted the best for me, but whatever he thinks is best for me is not best for me. It’s a different opinion.”

She hopes one day he will be proud of what she’s done on her own, why she went against his word.

But for now she’s taking baby steps, and doesn’t know what the future holds. She keeps advancing toward her passion in life – helping others.

“I feel like I have a chance now to achieve my dream,” she says. “Like life gave me a second chance.”

As for staying in Minnesota, a vastly different place compared to the hot Arabian Desert she grew up in, she can’t imagine leaving.

“I can’t leave now; I love the people here.”

The Beat the Odds scholarship program awards deserving students from the Rochester and surrounding areas, a $2,500 scholarship to attend Rochester Community and Technical College. To be eligible for a Beat the Odds scholarship, candidates must be a high school senior or a first-year RCTC student who has overcome obstacles such as personal or family hardships, abuse, neglect, poverty, disabilities, or language and cultural barriers. Despite their challenges, these students have persevered and endeavored to become personally and academically successful and are preparing for the next step in life of attending college.

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