CLARKSTON, Ga. — Studying chemistry, Shahed Waheeb’s main passions are to help cure diseases and help people in pain. She’s seen enough of pain during the war in her native Iraq, and in Syria.
“Since I was 9 years old, I was dreaming to work in pharmacy. Whenever I see someone who is sick, I wonder, ‘how can I treat that disease and save his or her life,’” she said.
Waheeb’s family left Syria and came to the United States as refugees in 2014. (They were accepted into the United States in 2009, but waited four years for paperwork to be finalized.)
For a time, Waheeb was unsure if she could realize her dream of college. She struggled with English. She took language support classes for one semester at Georgia Piedmont Technical College and enrolled at Perimeter in fall 2015.
“My first year in college, I was crying every day,” she said. “I was so frustrated not to be able to understand and be involved in discussion in a classroom — I was embarrassed to participate. I studied hours every day to improve my English.”
That work ethic paid off.
Today she has a 3.8 grade point average and is a member of the Phi Theta Kappa Honors society and Dean’s list, and gives back, working as a coach, a mentor, and a translator for immigrant women and their families at the Clarkston Development Foundation (CDF) and at the Mentoring Initiative for New Americans (MINA) at Perimeter College.
“Education is essential, in my opinion,” she said. “It should be available and affordable to everyone. Immigrants need extra help from us to help them improve and achieve in the U.S.”
Waheeb is one of more than 800 graduates who are expected to receive their associate degree at the end of Fall Semester. Commencement ceremonies are Tuesday, Dec. 12, at Georgia State University’s Perimeter College.
Waheeb plans to pursue her bachelor’s degree at Georgia State’s Atlanta Campus, and hopes to one day work on HIV research for new drugs to help stop the spread of the disease in Third World countries.