When you have a community behind you, anything is possible
Updated: Dec 7, 2022
By Sumaira I., 2022 College Shower Honoree and Project REACH participant
Despite the difficult times we live in, change is possible. Anything is possible, if you have the right community behind you. Girls Inc. of New York City was that community for me. Today, I ask you to donate to Girls Inc. of NYC’s #SkyIsNoLimit campaign so generations of girls after me can have the support I had.
My parents immigrated from Pakistan to New Jersey, where I was raised. When I was six years old, my father got deported, and the rug was pulled from under us. Without financial support, my mom moved me and my 4 siblings to a 1-bedroom attic in Brighton Beach.
Our relatives told my mom “Go back to Pakistan if you don’t want to live in poverty,” but my mother was determined that her children, especially her 4 daughters, have access to the opportunities in the U.S. that they wouldn’t have back home. My mother never completed her education. According to my extended family, a woman's worth is defined by her marriage. My mother’s life was decided by her father and her husband. My mother was adamant that my life would be decided by me. So we stayed.
At Urban Assembly High School, I joined Girls Inc. of NYC’s College Shower/college prep program. As a first generation American and college applicant, it was a difficult time for me. My Girls Inc. of NYC instructor, Nioka, was an incredible source of support. She educated us on the realities of college life, what resources were available, reviewed our college and financial aid applications and essays, and created a safe space for us to prepare for college.
I was devastated after my first college rejection—I feared that I wouldn't get into a good school or be able to afford it. Nioka comforted me and encouraged me to press on with a plan. She also told me to apply to be a Girls Inc. of NYC’s College Shower Honoree, which came with a scholarship for college.
I’m proud to report that I was selected as a College Shower Honoree and received a scholarship. I’m now a freshman at NYU Stern majoring in business, and I continue to be an active participant in Project REACH, Girls Inc. of NYC’s college persistence program. My plan is to become an entrepreneur, breaking the stereotypes and boundaries of my past.
The biggest gift Girls Inc. of NYC gives me is the power of a support system. College is challenging as a low-income first generation college student. I’m grateful that my Project REACH Program Director, Krystal, checks in and shares opportunities. Last month, I participated in a Speed Networking event at the Girls Inc. of NYC office. Preparing for a career in business, I had this mindset that because of my background, I’d have no one to support me. But as I walked into the Girls Inc. conference room, and saw the 30 accomplished professionals who were ready to share their advice and help, I was reminded that I have the support system that I never knew I needed. Because of this support, and because of my mother’s enduring strength, which sent 3 of her daughters to college, I know that I will make it. Anything is possible.
This holiday season, please consider making a donation to Girls Inc. of NYC. There is nothing more important than supporting the next generation of young women, because we are the ones who are going to change our communities. Your support will enable girls and young women to step out in the world and leave their mark.