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At St. Paul’s Humboldt High, girls come together, open up and then help others



Students use their own mistakes to learn and help younger girls avoid trouble.

Anthony Lonetree

It takes time to get the conversation rolling among the girls at St. Paul’s Humboldt High, and even then, the initial talk during a recent visit was about pimples and prom.

But Kati Vaudreuil, a school social worker, keeps prodding, and the nine gathered in room 2218 begin to open up about classroom difficulties — plus a taco salad fundraiser they’d organized that netted $430 for homeless kids.

These girls were tapped to be leaders before they knew they had the qualities in them. And they have risen to the challenge with the help of Kadra Mohamed, a Metro Transit officer who volunteers as a mentor. In many cases, the girls joined the “Women’s Leadership Group” after making mistakes or ­enduring personal struggles.

Some have gotten into fights. They’ve skipped school.

But in the course of once-a-week meetings carved out of the regular school day, they talk out those issues plus others they may have in common — family problems, for example — with the promise that the details stay in the room.

“I feel like the group is a diary,” Mariya Johnson, 16, a junior from the East Side, said after one of its meetings two weeks ago. “We say how we feel inside the group. When we get outside the group, it all disappears.”

Melissa Dobbs, 18, a junior from the North End, was blunt about the reason for her involvement.

“Fighting. Physically. In the office, always in trouble,” she said.

Even within the group, Dobbs said, she butted heads with Johnson, at first. In time, they worked through the drama.

Now, they sometimes are called to the principal’s office together, she said, to speak with younger girls who have been fighting — to be an example of teens able to settle their differences.

When on edge, Dobbs said, those times when “the old Melissa would have just went off,” she takes a minute to think, “Should I really do this?”

For that, “the 60-second decision,” she can thank retired St. Paul Police Chief Tom Smith. Three years ago, Smith partnered with ­Vaudreuil to start the girls group.

He, too, is a former Humboldt troublemaker made good.

Smith has been a force at the West Side school for many years, having launched a ­mentoring program there about 14 years ago, Vaudreuil said.

Interim Superintendent John Thein, who had breakfast with the girls after their taco salad fundraiser, joked that anyone venturing within a block of Humboldt is liable to be pulled inside by Smith to be a mentor. Theresa Battle, an assistant superintendent who oversees high schools, meets weekly with Johnson, who struggled with her grades and attendance.

“She’ll be real with me,” Johnson said of Battle as a mentor. “She’ll tell me straight up, ‘You really need to come to school. It’s important.’ ”

This year, Smith spent much of his time getting a similar boys’ group up and running. But he was there with the girls on a Wednesday recently — dressed in red track jacket and black sweatpants — reminding them of 60-second decisions and of being conscious of the “craziness in the streets” and the violence that can occur at parties.

“I just want to tell you: I’m proud of you,” he said. “But be careful.”

Also there preaching awareness was Mohamed, who grew up on the West Side and is the state’s first Somali-American officer. She worked with the girls the entire school year.

Muna Mohamed, 17, a senior from the East Side, considered being a police officer, citing Kadra Mohamed’s influence, but now is leaning toward becoming a probation ­officer. Too many kids from their culture are in juvenile detention without someone they can trust or relate to, she said. “They don’t have that one person who can connect with them, and say, ‘This is this.’ ”

Shukri Ali, 18, a senior from the West Side, also credits Kadra Mohamed with helping her push through a rough year during which Ali was absent because of family problems.

“It’s nice to hear from a professional like Kadra that you’re going to make it eventually,” Ali said.

Last Friday, the girls and the boys — many of whom serve as mentors to Humboldt’s middle-schoolers — joined in a year-end celebration. Dobbs was unable to make it, however. She is part of the school’s certified nursing assistant ­program, and had to take a state test that day.

Someday, Dobbs hopes to be a nurse, she said, and then to go back to school to be a doctor. Being a leader, and learning to respect yourself, she said, can help you dream big.


Somalia: Turkish foundation’s school hosts 500 students



Turkiye Diyanet Foundation (TDV) on Tuesday said the Sheikh Sufi Imam Hatip High School in Somalia’s capital Mogadishu, which it restored six years ago, currently hosts 500 students.

According to Turkey’s religious services consultant in Somalia Ahmet Akturk, numerous students were orphans. TDV said 270 of these students are boarders.

”All of the students’ costs are covered by TDV and the foundation will make sure the students continue their university studies,” he added.

Turkey began to set up various projects in Somalia in 2011 when President Recep Tayyip Erdogan launched an initiative to help the East African country, which was undergoing a famine due to drought.

The initiative later grew to other humanitarian activities and educational projects, according to the statement.

Sheikh Sufi Imam Hatip High School, which has existed in Mogadishu since 1960, stopped functioning in 1991 due to civil war.

According to TDV , a new protocol signed with the Ministry of Education of Somalia in 2012 led to the resumption of educational activities.

Approximately 2,000 students apply to the school every year but only a hundred are accepted due to quota restrictions.

Eleventh grade student Muhammad Hasan said the school was a “great opportunity” for all students there.

“We get a combination of scientific and religious knowledge, we learn in the best way,” Hasan added.

According to Leyla Sherif, another student, the school provides not only education but safety and health services too.

“Our school is one of the best schools in Somalia. We learn both religion and science and my favorite course is Turkish,” Leyla added.

Since 2011, TDV has built centers for the disabled, hospitals, and orphanages in Mogadishu.

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Somali graduates praise peace, harmony and good social development in Malaysia



Somali graduates Abbas Mohamad Mahdi , 28 (left), and Ahmed Derow Isak, 32, from Mogadishu, are determined to return home and work in their home country after completing both their Bachelor and Master degrees in Information Technology. Pix by Amran Hamid

SINTOK: Despite the unrest in some parts of their country, two Somali graduates from Universiti Utara Malaysia (UUM) are keen to return home to serve the people.

Abbas Mohamad Mahdi, 28, and Ahmed Derow Isak, 32, from Mogadishu, are determined to return home and work in their home country after completing both their Bachelor and Master degrees in Information Technology.

The duo received their Master of Science (Information Technology) from UUM Pro-chancellor Tan Sri Osman Aroff today.

Abbas said as the second of six siblings, he wanted to support his younger siblings to further their education.

“My father passed away when I was eight years old and my mother raised the family by doing odd jobs.

“I was able to further my studies here thanks to my elder sister and a younger brother who helped me financially,” he said when met.

Abbas said he chose to come to UUM after he heard about it from friends who had furthered their studies at the university.

He initially planned to further his studies in Sudan but when he came to know about the peace, harmony and good social development enjoyed by Malaysians, he decided to come here to study.

Ahmed Derow said life in Malaysia was better than Somalia but he would still return home to work in his own country.

“My wife is there and so are my siblings who have helped to finance my studies here.

I will use the knowledge and experience I gained in this country to give back to my people back home,” he said.

Ahmad Derow said although his mother has migrated to United Kingdom and he could further his studies there, the cost that he need to bear was too high.

He said Malaysians should be grateful by the various benefits that they enjoy especially in the furthering their studies locally.

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Turkish NGO puts Somali doctors through medical school



Five Somali doctors on Friday graduated from medical school under a special program organized by a Turkish NGO.

The new MDs got their diplomas from the program organized by Doctors Worldwide Turkey (DWWT) at a ceremony in Mogadishu, the capital of the Horn of Africa country.

Safa Simsek of the NGO told Anadolu Agency: “Apart from nine physicians who graduated last year from the program, which we started in 2013 in Somalia, five more doctors graduated this year, including three general practitioners and two internal medicine specialists.”

Simsek also pointed to Muhammad Osman, a 12-year-old Somali who got cataracts six years ago, and was cured by Turkish doctors in a free operation.

“To date we have performed 3,000 cataract surgeries in Somalia,” he added.

Cataracts are an eye condition that results in cloudy vision.

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