Op-Ed: Behind the Jawad Scholarship fund

Monday, September 12, 2016 - 6:03pm

Doctor. Surgeon. Genius. Einstein. These are the labels by which my family defines me.

I am obviously not a doctor nor a surgeon, not a genius nor an Einstein, but every day when I wake up, it’s a day trying to live up to these expectations; it’s a day living the life of a first-generation college student from an immigrant family trying to make every moment on this campus worth it for not just me, but for my family.

In 1973, my now-late grandfather came to the United States for the first time. Leaving his seven children and my grandmother, he came here alone in search of a new opportunity. Just 11 years later, in 1984, my father and the remainder of his family followed, escaping a war that tore our country of Lebanon apart. The Lebanese Civil War lasted from 1975 to 1990, with an estimated 150,000 people killed and more than 1 million (a quarter of the population) were displaced. My family was a part of that 1 million.

When my father and his dad came to the United States, they knew nothing about being in this country. They did not know how to read street signs. With a lack of mosques, there were no places for them to worship Islam, and with no internet (or Facebook, or Twitter, or Instagram), they could not communicate easily back home with family. Being in the United States was a hard life to live, but they did know, however, that they were in a place of opportunity, jobs, education and safety, and future generations of our family would have a better life because of their move. Fast forward 32 years later and here I am as a student at one of the best universities in the world, the University of Michigan.

My acceptance into U of M is the reason why my family thinks I am a genius. My two older brothers matriculated at U of M before me and our education is something never believed to be possible and never before done by people in our family. My father and his siblings did not attend university and the degrees we get from here are pieces of paper that mean more than the world to those who are supporting us. This is why when I go home they call me a “doctor” before I have even taken the MCAT, and it is why my mom’s father walks around Dearborn showing people that I was one of the Students of the Year.

To my family, this education is foreign and unique, and it means that every backbreaking job they worked, every hardship they have endured, every tear they have shed and every dollar they have earned has paid off. For me this life of campus chaos is easy. This life of everyday tiring educational work is nothing compared to watching what my family had to do to get me where I am today — my success and work is worth every moment of over-exhaustion, fatigue and hard work. This is my way to thank my family, to make them proud, to live up to their expectations and to let them know that for every challenge they faced, I made a move to better my world, my surroundings and my future, and they did nothing in vain.

Our story, our background and our past have motivated my family to create the Ahmad K. Jawad Scholarship for Community Service and Social Action through the Edward Ginsberg Center for Community Service and Learning. When I was a freshman, I was awarded a similar scholarship through the Ginsberg Center, which required a one-year term of service to the Ginsberg Student Advisory Board and also provided me with $1,000 that allowed me to work less hours for pay, and spend more hours on developing my service and community engagement. I am now entering my third year on the board, not by requirement to my scholarship, but by volunteer, because this leadership role has defined me and my time here at this University. My family and I hold our education and donation to the highest regard, and this award is a gift to education, as there is no better way to remember my grandpa’s memory than in his and my family’s determination to educate successive generations.

My family has established the Ahmad K. Jawad Community Service Scholarship Fund in honor of my grandpa, Ahmad, who brought our family here to make huge strides like the ones I am making today; he came to the United States with a vision of a better future through education and giving for others. This year, one $1,000 scholarship will be awarded to support a first-generation University of Michigan student who gives a commitment to community service or social action and who demonstrates financial need. I hope this story and this scholarship will give someone the opportunity I was so fortunate to have have had during my first month at the University.

I write this in loving memory of Ahmad K. Jawad, my grandpa whom my family and I miss daily, but whose memory will never be lost nor forgotten.

Nadine Jawad can be reached at nkjawad@umich.edu.