Yahya Mused shares his deeply inspiring journey with MALA. From Yemen to New York city, he describes how he came about to build his dreams of obtaining a college education through determination, hope, and persistence.
Like many millennials growing up in the Middle East, specifically in Yemen, my childhood was rough around the edges. It wasn’t until I reached my early years of adulthood that I realized one essential fact: I am no longer able to depend on anyone but myself for the realization of my future.
After my graduation from high school in Yemen, hope seemed to dwindle with the passing of time. In early 2010, I had to bid my mother farewell when she passed away. Soon after that, I left to the United States. Though I have been a US citizen since birth, it was my first long-lasting visit to the country. Nay, it wasn’t a visit. It was a turning point in my life.
I arrived to New York City, where my brother was residing. My brother–a military veteran–welcomed me and promised to fund my college education. But due to financial shortcomings, he had to renege on this promise, leaving me with the last grains of hope for a higher education flying off my hands. I realized that I had to start from scratch and forge a future for myself out of the nothingness that I was surrounded by at the time.
Here I was, without any money for college and no means of earning. Following the steps of my brother before me, I also promised my family considerable financial support. All of this called for a search for jobs. After some conversations with friends living in the area, I found a job in a deli store in Brooklyn. My friends did not say anything about its long hours and the anxiety that accompanied with it. The work conditions were inhumane. I moved from one store to another, and from one job position to another. Once I was a cashier, and other times I made sandwiches in the sandwich bar.
With every sandwich I made or item I sold, the dream of going to college faded out slowly. Every time I thought about my future plans, I sunk deeper in many questions and lots of blame. I blamed myself for not being able to do better. This feeling of uselessness intensified when I began to work in a deli ironically named, “College Deli.” College Deli was located across from Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn, New York. Professors, students, and college staff alike were the majority of my customers. “This may be my chance to jump off this wagon and go to college,” I thought to myself… “college staff can hand me more than their dollar bills in exchange for the items they bought from the store.” So, I asked them for advice about the possibility of enrolling and completing my dream to complete a higher education.
After a few conversations, I found it possible to study and work at the same time. I enrolled thereafter. Today, I serve as President and Founder of the local Muslim Student Association (“MSA”) chapter at Medgar Evers College and the Junior Class Representative at the school’s Student Government Association. I am the Secretary of the local Association for Computing Machinery (“ACM”) Club–the world’s largest scientific and computing society. I’m also an Auxiliary Police Officer working on the Brooklyn-South area specifically the 068 Precinct.
In my neighborhood stands Medgar Evers College, where I have been a student since the spring of 2013. At Medgar Evers college, my passion for computer science and database analysis grew bigger. Since my young years, I have always been interested in sciences. I took courses in mathematics and physics before I began taking special courses in various computer software. When I began my collage studies, I found an unwavering urge to begin my journey with computer science. Today, I serve as secretary of the Association of Computing Machinery (ACM)—an extracurricular club that is an extension of the world’s largest scientific and educational computing society.
After college, I spend time mentoring high school students, who are interested in computer science, as part of the CUNY Healthcare Careers Pipeline Project. I teach them basic coding in C++ and Java, and Algorithm Creation methods and Implementation. This project allows me to give these students the guidance I wished I had when I began my journey with computer science. The curriculum and assignments that my colleagues and I prepare for our mentees are sure to give them a stepping stone into software coding and data analysis, such that they excel when they take the mantle as the new generation of computer scientists.
I deem my work with the CUNY Healthcare Careers Pipeline Project as one of the most effective ways to pass on knowledge and be an agent of change. While I enjoy teaching my passion to young students, I kindle theirs in the same field. Because of this work, I have learned that I can use my education to become a change maker, but that it does not require knowledge as much as passion to make a positive difference. By this, I mean that my education has rather inspired me to be an agent of change in or outside of my field.
To test this, I spend a minimum of twelve hours per month serving in the Brooklyn-south district, which pertains to the 68th New York Police Department precinct, as an auxiliary police officer—a seemingly unrelated field. I respond to security needs, including patrolling the streets and providing safety service to community events. I find this service rather rewarding. While I had no prior knowledge in police work, I have been able to give back to my community and gain a number of leadership skills, as being an auxiliary police officer puts me in situations that require effective emergency and safety procedures.
In conclusion, my neighborhood and my community have shaped my personality, my goals, my passions, and my obligations. I define myself as an aspiring computer scientist, a teacher, and a community leader. Another way my education has inspired me to be an agent of change is by taking part in a local community group. This group has, thus far, led a social media campaign that calls for peace in Yemen and laid the groundwork for a fundraiser that would aid impoverished families suffering from the war that yet engulfs the country —the people and places that I am connected with regardless of location.
To put the icing on the cake, just a few weeks ago, I received a number of honors and certificates. I was honored on the Dean’s List for my strong academic record, and I was inducted into the Pi Eta Kappa Honor Society. In addition, I was awarded (Honorable Lucille Rose) in honor of my outstanding performance from the Community Council of Medgar Evers College. By the end of May 2016, I will graduate with two Associate Degrees in Liberal Sciences and Computer Science, and I will continue on to my Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. Degrees and honors aside, I’m humbled and proud that I have crossed a long bridge one step at a time.