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Sameya’s Story

Now working at a job she loves, Sameya looks back on her difficult path to success

“Next to coming to America, Avivo was the best thing that ever happened to me.”

Sameya is a Somali-American mother of three, living in Minneapolis. She was born in Somalia to well-educated parents. Her father was the head of a bank, and her mother was a store-owner.

In 1991, civil war broke out in Somalia, which forever changed Sameya’s life. “One day when I was in kindergarten, soldiers stormed into the school and started shooting people. My teacher was shot right in front of me,” she recalls.

“One day when I was in kindergarten, soldiers stormed into the school and started shooting people. My teacher was shot right in front of me…”

Sameya’s family fled their home country as refugees; first to Kenya, and then to the United States.

They escaped with other families by boat. In the middle of the night, the boat hit a large rock and sank. “I was terrified… I couldn’t swim,” she says. “We were in the ocean for a couple of hours before being rescued and taken to Kenya.”

Arriving in America gave Sameya hope, but things didn’t start out easily. “I didn’t know English at first,” she says. “I experienced racism from the children at school… I was beaten for wearing Somali clothes and for covering my hair [with a hijab].”

“I want to show the rest of the young ladies that I can be an example for them. That if you work hard, you will accomplish things.”

Life at home wasn’t much easier. She wanted desperately to be a “regular” kid, an American kid, but her mother didn’t support that change.

“I couldn’t take it. I ran away,” she says. “I started acting out. I was depressed and started drinking. I was in and out of Juvenile Hall.”

Sameya reached a breaking point and told herself “it’s time to wake up.” She’d grown into what she saw as a failure: a young mother making $9.50/hour at a toy store to support her three children. That’s when she found Avivo.

Sameya enrolled in Avivo Institute of Career and Technical Education and worked with career counselors to find the career best suited for her personality.

“It turns out that I’m a 100 percent people person,” Sameya says. “A career in social services is a good fit.”

With Avivo’s help, she is currently working at her perfect job. Sameya is a career counselor who specializes in helping individuals with similar backgrounds as hers. She is working full-time with a living wage job and supporting her family!

“I want to show the rest of the young ladies [like me] that I can be an example for them. That if you work hard, you will accomplish things.”