2008 Fadumo Hassan

When the 35W bridge fell into the Mississippi River last summer, Fadumo Hassan's own support system collapsed as well. Her pregnant aunt, Sacdiyo Sahal, who was like a second mother to Fadumo, was killed, along with Sahal's two-year-old child.

Fadumo's aunt was the second significant person in her life to die. As a young child in war-torn Somalia, her father was often absent, and her mother made great sacrifices to keep Fadumo and her four younger brothers together. When her mother died unexpectedly one night in her sleep, eight-year-old Fadumo and her siblings faced an uncertain future.

Her father brought the family to Minnesota to live better in America, but the transition became more difficult after Fadumo's father abandoned them. Without parents, she struggled to adjust to a new language, new school, and significant cultural change.

Fadumo found solace and a mother figure in her Aunt Sacdiyo. Her aunt was the one person with whom she could share her problems. Just as her mother had done, her aunt inspired her to be the first person in her family to complete high school and go on to college. When the bridge collapsed, Fadumo found herself alone again but rededicated to her future.

My mother said, always treat people with respect and dignity and my aunt would tell me how happy my mother would be if she knew about my achievements.

Fadumo is a senior at Edison High School. She dedicates herself to her studies, and has earned 16 college credits through the University of Minnesota Post-Secondary Options program. She has done so while also working to pay for living expenses and to send money to her sick grandmother in Somalia. Fadumo also devotes many hours to Leaders of Tomorrow, the Somali Student Association, Public Achievement, Girl Scouts, High Tech Girls, and the soccer team. Fudumo looks forward to creating her own life. What I do with my future is in my hands.

Fadumo plans to study dentistry in college and is considering several schools for her undergraduate studies.