2015 Nasro Mohamed

Nasro Mohamed’s childhood was one marked by monumental pain and loss, both physical and emotional. Yet when you meet her today, she radiates a positivity and cheerfulness that belies her traumatic past.

As a three-year-old in civil war-torn Ethiopia, Nasro saw her mother killed by soldiers who had invaded their home in search of her father. He was not home that night and would not be seen again. Nasro was shot in the lower leg, shattering the bone and eventually leading to amputation. Taken in by an aunt, Nasro left her native country, moving first to Kenya, and then to the United States at the age of eight.

Despite multiple surgeries and extensive and painful rehabilitation that caused her to miss a lot of school, Nasro does not readily share details of her hardships, even with close friends. She recalls that the first time one elementary school teacher learned of her disability was when her ill-fitting prosthesis fell off at school. “I don’t want pity,” she explains. “I don’t want to be looked at as different.”

Currently a senior at Harding Senior High in St. Paul, Nasro continues to downplay the physical challenges she has faced. She cites instead the struggle to learn English as the obstacle she is most proud of overcoming. That accomplishment has been essential to her family’s survival. Nasro’s aunt has been unable to obtain work due to language barriers, health issues, and lack of education. The family relies upon public programs like SNAP, Section 8 housing and cash assistance to get by. Without Nasro’s ability to translate, navigating the paperwork and processes necessary to obtain help would have been nearly impossible.

Seeing the challenges her aunt has faced inspires and motivates Nasro to work hard in school. “My aunt doesn’t have an education, and that made it hard for us. She’s the one that pushes me,” Nasro says.

Nasro’s nominator describes her as “the model student: focused on her future, an assiduous worker in the classroom, and a leader in her community.”  In addition to taking many college-level International Baccalaureate classes, Nasro participates in College Possible, was selected to participate in the Genesys Works program and maintains a prestigious internship at 3M. She is also involved in school organizations like the African Club and Knight Crew, and serves her community at Dayton’s Bluff Community Center.

That level of involvement is especially impressive in light of Nasro’s heavy load of family responsibilities. Ethiopian culture places the burden of household chores on females. As the only girl in a household of male cousins, Nasro is expected to take on the cooking, cleaning, and babysitting duties. While she often feels overwhelmed, Nasro keeps her focus on her future. She has been accepted to the University of Minnesota, and she hopes to study abroad. She wants to put her years of experience navigating the world of public support programs to good use by becoming a social worker and helping other families like hers who need a helping hand.