a

REALITY CHANGERS transforms lives by providing youth from disadvantaged backgrounds with the academic support, financial assistance, and leadership training to become college graduates.

Latest News

Blog

Featured Student – Kasim Hussein

I should be a child soldier right now. I could have been owned by someone. I would have been forced to fight other children just to spare my life. I would have never been to the United States, gone to school, and learned English. I could have just given up, but ever since my birth at 30,000 feet above the earth, I have continued to defy gravity.

After I was born on an airplane overlooking the northeastern African Plains, my father and I lived peacefully in Aswan, Egypt. When I was six years old, however, my grandfather living in Somalia was diagnosed with a life-threatening illness and we travelled to see him. During our stay, my father and I were shopping in a nearby market when an Al Qaeda-sponsored militia began shooting many people, including my father. Within the next three days, after a brave battle to heal from his five bullets wounds, my father passed away just a few hours after my grandfather succumbed to his illness. Overwhelmed with emotions, in an instant my world was turned completely upside down. I went from living in a beautiful fishing town to being lost in a country overrun with poverty, famine, and terrorism. Fatherless, my six-year-old mind set out to achieve the unthinkable: travel 2,000 miles back home to Egypt by bus and on foot. During that journey, I was kidnapped by rebels to serve them as a child soldier. Just a few days before I was supposed to be injected with heroin to become an addict and therefore serve at the will of the leaders of the child slave trade, a friend and I were able to escape our oppressors. I was able to help my friend successfully find her home. In return, her grateful family drove me back to Egypt two years after I had originally departed.

I should be a child soldier right now. I could have been owned by someone. I would have been forced to fight other children just to spare my life. I would have never been to the United States, gone to school, and learned English. I could have just given up, but ever since my birth at 30,000 feet above the earth, I have continued to defy gravity.

I was overjoyed to return to my native country, but being home meant living all by myself in my father’s empty mud-block house at the age of eight. Another two years passed and I was informed that my long-absent mother was staying in nearby Cairo. As I was interested in meeting her, I left to meet her for the first time, but she wasn’t so anxious about meeting me. Upon my arrival, she said that in order to live with her I would have to support her and her children and so I did. Out of the blue, she then decided to go to America to live near her family in San Diego and brought me along. At the time, I spoke Arabic and Somali, so I figured that I could find people in America that spoke these languages and I would be fine, but almost immediately I was introduced to a whole new culture, language, and law. I finally began to attend school for the first time at the age of ten and although it was difficult, I loved being in school and from this young age I realized the importance of education and how it leads to success.

During my first year of high school, I met my high school sweetheart and became a Christian, neither of which could ever be tolerated in a Muslim family. As a result, my mother kicked me out of her home and- while in a much safer territory than Somalia- I soon found myself in yet another familiar situation: on my own again. At fifteen years old, I could have easily broke down and dropped out of school, joined a gang, done drugs, or been thrown in jail. Instead, I chose the road not often taken and never desired; I started living in teen shelters and in the homes of close friends for periods of two weeks to four months. I also started to work to pay rent and buy food and a bus pass to go to school. Throughout this hardship, I stayed in school and maintained a 3.67 G.P.A.

Today, I am not a child soldier, but a soldier for education. I am not a slave, but free from limitations. And I am not illiterate, but fluent in three cultures from three different corners of the world. I experienced physical and emotional pain, hard work, perseverance, honor, and respect before I learned the ABC’s. For me, defying gravity means to go above and beyond what an average person would do in certain unbearable situations and I continue to defy gravity by transcending all of the horrible incidents in my life.

Looking forward, I am my own father, I am my own mother, and I am my own grandfather. I am no longer in the land of my forefathers that dictated what happened to me. Instead, I am in the United States of America where one day I will be able to shape the bright futures of my children and grandchildren.

Kasim Hussein
Reality Changers Class of 2011