When Shaadia was younger, she would sneak into her older brother’s English class to participate in his Project Success workshops: “I felt as though I had to be there, and his facilitator Kurt sparked a light in me,” she said.
Then, when she started sixth grade, she experienced Project Success workshops for herself. “For the first time in my life someone asked me questions I had never been asked before. [My facilitator would ask,] “Shaadia what are your dreams?” “What do you want your future to look like?” “What are you passionate about?” she said.
For the next seven years, Shaadia participated in Project Success workshops in her middle and high school classrooms once a month, learning life-lessons about the importance of values, goals, positive self-esteem, imagining the future and making a plan to get there.
Shaadia went for it, pursuing opportunities she wouldn’t have considered otherwise, including applying for and being chosen as the first female student representative on the Minneapolis Public Schools Board of Education.
Shaadia grew up in Minneapolis, the daughter of a Somali father who supported higher education for women and a mother who grew up in Yemen, where it’s less common for women to pursue education. Project Success opened doors to experiences in and outside of the classroom, helping Shaadia realize she had the ability to chart her own life path.
For example, she was introduced to theater and attended many professional productions with her classmates and family – all at no cost through Project Success.
“Project Success introduced me to theater for the first time. One of my vivid memories is from a Mixed Blood play, Hijab Tube, about a Muslim woman debating if she should wear her scarf or not in the United States. Something about seeing live actors portraying powerful figures within a powerful story on stage, really helped me see who I could be and what I could do.”
She also traveled to France through Project Succes to experience a larger world and imagine her future in a new way. “The France trip made me realize that Project Success is different from any other program. The relationships are different. The Project Success team is just more like a family. They really watch out for us and take care of even the little things.”
And thanks to conversations with her Project Success facilitator, Micah, Shaadia realized she could pursue a wide range of post-secondary options.
“What I loved was learning that I had options. I could go to college, pursue a trade or travel. He provided me with all of the resources I needed to feel like the power of choice was mine.”
She toured a number of colleges with Project Success, including St. Catherine University, the University of Minnesota, Macalester College, Augsburg College, DePaul University and the University of Chicago. Shaadia applied to and was accepted by 16 schools. This Spring, we celebrated Shaadia’s graduation from Augsburg University. We are honored to have been a part of her life these last 13 years.
“Project Success planted the seeds for the lesson I now understand – the importance of values, dreams, setting goals, imagining the impossible and going for it.”
Young people have what they need inside of them to be successful – their own unique skills, ideas, and plans for their future. Project Success is there – with curriculum, mentorship, and diverse experiential learning opportunities over time – for more than 15,000 students each year. These opportunities help them prepare to enter the workforce and create lasting impact in our communities. More than 90% of students we serve say that Project Success helped them set goals and create a plan for after graduation.
The best part is that Shaadia’s success is not unique. For the past 28 years, Project Success has helped more than 200,000 students in grades 6–12 connect to their purpose and ignite the power within to become happy, productive and contributing members of society.
Our commitment to our core value of “Kids First” drives our adaptive programming, culturally responsive spaces, and sense of hope for the future that we share with our students. Together, we know that we can build that bright future. Please give today and help thousands more students reach their dreams. As Shaadia has said, “Project Success helped me realize that there is really no barrier big enough to stop me from my dreams. Anything I truly want to accomplish, I can.”
“I want a future dedicated to advocating for people that look like me, providing resources for students who need them, and learning from mentors like Adrienne, so that I’m able to impact lives the way she has impacted mine.”
Check out Shaadia’s full speech at the Dreams to Action Breakfast: