With encouragement and support from her teachers, Burnsville High School senior Libin Said submitted an essay to St. Thomas University, one of her top college choices, in hopes of earning a four-year, full-tuition scholarship.
On Friday, March 13, her hopes were realized when a university representative, Codi Seoun, greeted her in the Career Center with some surprising news. Libin was one of 14 students out of 300 applicants to receive the Dease Scholarship, a scholarship program initiated to increase access to a St. Thomas education for students historically underrepresented at the university. This group includes first-generation students, students of color, and students from families without the means to afford a private-school education.
“I never thought I would get the scholarship. I was so surprised,” said Libin. “When they brought me to the Career Center, and Mr. Helke was standing there, I thought I was in trouble. I thought maybe I would be suspended for skipping class and going to the Black History performance instead.”
This year, Dease Scholarship applicants had to answer the question, “What would receiving a Dease Scholarship mean to you personally and how would you use this opportunity at St. Thomas to celebrate cultures of diversity while advancing the common good?”
As the daughter of a single mother who is a Somali immigrant and also disabled, Libin’s expectations of attending college were low. No one in her family has ever gone to college. However, that didn’t stop Libin from challenging herself by taking Advanced Placement and honors classes. Through these classes, Libin learned that a college degree was paramount to her success.
Through volunteering at a local hospital, mosque and her apartment building, where she organized a fashion show and potluck for residents to come together and foster positive relationships, Libin says she has learned the value of celebrating diverse cultures. She also hopes that her voice and perspective of a Muslim woman will advance the common good during a time when the media portrays various voices of her religion.
“Libin is highly motivated to succeed — not just to do a good job but to do the best job that she can,” added Katie Burke, BHS language arts teacher.
In the aftermath of receiving the news, Libin’s aunts and uncles from Europe called to congratulate her. Her mother was shocked.
“It was weird because I don’t like getting a lot of attention, but I felt very loved that day,” said Libin.