LAUNCH Participant commits to academic achievement
It’s not that Mohamed wants to attend pharmacy school—that would be understating his commitment to his goals.
“There is no debate. I have to do this,” he said. “This is my life and it’s for me to decide. It’s MY future.”
Mohamed is a participant in United Way of Greater Kansas City’s LAUNCH program. The cost-sharing college and career program for students from low-income households, many of whom are first-generation college attendees who have a strong work ethic. The program's Education Account, which covers tuition, fees, books, and supplies, provides an 8-to-1 match: the participant saves up to $500 and receives up to $4,000 of matching funds. Mohamed has worked tirelessly to reach the maximum fund match.
“I’m thankful for United Way. It was a good thing that inspired me,” he said. “They’ve told me I already succeeded, but I don’t feel like I’ve succeeded yet. I’m still doing it.”
When this 23-year-old with a big smile started ESL classes in 2016, the dream may have seemed impossible. But spend five minutes listening to him talk about his plans for the future, and you’ll be a believer.
“We are all human and we have these big, beautiful minds. Everything we think about doing has to be big, too,” he said. “I can be anything.”
When Mohamed is struggling to keep up with his busy schedule—classes five days a week, driving for Uber on the weekends, and spending his limited free time with his mother and younger sisters—he thinks about the people who have achieved so much before him.
“When I think of what others have done to be successful, this is easy,” Mohamed said. “I will be a pharmacist. It’s no big deal.”
For Mohamed to envision this kind of achievement at all is a big deal when you consider his past. A refugee from Ethiopia, he came to the United States with zero knowledge of American customs or even basic English. When the family arrived, they sat down and asked one collective question: “How are we going to succeed in America?”
Mohamed’s mother made the decision. Theirs would be a family focused on education. And following Ethiopian tradition, Mohamed would inherit the responsibility of setting a positive example for his sisters to follow.
“The first thing I can remember in my life, I didn’t have anything. So now I was working part time, going to classes, just paying bills,” Mohamed recalled. “It was good. God gave me this life. Life is good when you do the right things.”
Those rights things now include finishing up his pre-requisite courses for a pharmacy program at Metropolitan Community College-Penn Valley, where he earned a scholarship and completed his ESL coursework within a year. Paired with the LAUNCH program, Mohamed is now in the position to create a new tradition in his family.
“When you come from a poor family, you have to create change,” Mohamed said. “For my children, things are going to be different. I don’t need my family to live the way my life has been. My children are going to be different.”
The LAUNCH savings are ready to be used for Mohamed's education—possibly to help with pharmacy school. When Mohamed describes the money saved and the program in general, his joy is palpable. He speaks with so much enthusiasm his hands shake.
“Everyone in this community needs something to go where they need to go,” Mohamed said. “The LAUNCH program works with the people who need help to succeed. Now I can show them, you can do this too.”
For a man who came across the world to live a better life, his plan is to stay in Kansas City and give back to the community that has given him so much opportunity.
“It’s a good thing to know there are people who want this community to be successful. That motivates us to be students, educators and doctors,” Mohamed said. “The LAUNCH program is part of me and part of my success.”