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Determination leads to MPHS student’s acceptance into Harvard

Apr 14, 2017 by

Kullen Logsdon – The Morning Sun Mt. Pleasant High School senior Isra Hamdi (right) and her mother, Wafa Hozien (left), pose for a photo outside of their home on Crawford Road on Tuesday, April 11 to celebrate Hamdi’s recent acceptance into Harvard University.

By Kullen Logsdon –

Isra Hamdi was so worried she could barely open her laptop.

With nerves running down her spine and her mother sitting next to her in their living room, Hamdi finally opened the email for which she had waited months.

After reading nothing but the first word, Hamdi and her mother, Wafa Hozien, jumped for joy as the 18-year-old learned she had been accepted into her dream school, Harvard University.

“We started freaking out after we saw ‘congratulations’ and (we) both started screaming and jumping around,” Hamdi said. “I thought I was going to cry and just couldn’t stop smiling.

Hamdi, a senior at Mt. Pleasant High School, became part of an elite group from the school to get accepted into Harvard. Hamdi duel enrolls at Central Michigan University and will receive a full-ride scholarship when she transfers to the Ivy League school in the fall, because of success in and out of the classroom.

Hamdi received her acceptance letter on March 30, along with letters from Cornell, Princeton, Columbia and the University of Pennsylvania, among others. She plans on studying medicine and hopes to become a neuro or cardiothoracic surgeon one day.

Becoming a prodigy

It wasn’t by luck Hamdi got this far. Hozien, a single mother and teacher, installed the principles of hard work and commitment into her daughter at an early age.

While Hamdi didn’t realize her intellegence level until middle school, her mother gave her “hope” that she could achieve great things.

“Even though I wasn’t exceptional (at that time), my mom made me feel like I was. That made me work and I became that way,” she said. “I was never the person who knew everything. I had to work really hard and put a lot of time into studying and reading for all my classes.”

From then on, four to five hours was spent on school work every day and social activities came second. Hozien made sure homework and studying was done right after school and those practices became second nature to Hamdi.

“She chose to forego parties and trips to the movies to commit herself to academic excellence and it shows in her acceptances,” Hozien said.

While Hamdi couldn’t always hang out with friends, she enjoyed doing schoolwork and expanding her intelligence.

“It wasn’t a negative for me,” she said. “I liked learning and was curious about the world. I never saw it as a sacrifice.”

Hamdi grew up just outside of Richmond, Va. and came to Mt. Pleasant in 2015 when Hozien got a job as a lecturer in the department of educational leadership at CMU.

Starting her junior year at MPHS, Hamdi immediately began taking advanced placement classes and enrolled at CMU part time. In the last year, Hamdi has taken five AP classes and her schedule has converted more towards college courses. She now is finishing her last class at MPHS — AP literature — while enrolled in anatomy and chemistry at Central Michigan.

Hamdi is also a part of the debate team at CMU and plans on joining the swimming club at Harvard. She will be the valedictorian at MPHS’s graduation ceremony this June.

Overcoming stereotypes

Despite all her achievements, Hamdi said being a minority and a female has had its own challenges along the way. Working to break through those stereotypes has become extra motivation for her.

“Because I wear a hijab, some people look at me and think I’m illiterate and don’t speak English,” she said. “I’ve always had to fight those stereotypes. That encouraged me to do even better.”

Hozien said she is extremely proud of her daughter’s drive and commitment to be a great student.

“All those early morning hours, those late nights of studying prolonged weekends focusing on projects have finally paid off,” she said. “As a minority female student she has had to work extra hard to make herself known and to excel both personally and academically.”

Through all her schooling, Hamdi said many teachers have had significant impacts on her. She specifically pointed to Mike Harper, her middle school teacher in Virginia; Zach Cresswell, her calculus teacher at MPHS and Joe Packer, her debate coach at CMU.

Hozien said it takes many individual impacts for someone to have the amount of success Hamdi has had.

“It’s not just one person doing the right thing, it is a community effort,” she said. “It is the teachers and the friends who are encouraging her.”

Hamdi recently started working part time at the Soaring Eagle Waterpark and Hotel to save up money for books and gas expenses once she gets to Harvard. She leaves for orientation at the end of April before moving to Cambridge, Massachusetts in August.

While Hozien will miss her daughter, she has a message for her before she starts the next part of her journey.

“You have to be a doer of good deeds. Now that god almighty has given you an above average intelligence, you have to go forth and right what is wrong with society,” she said. “You can be a supreme court justice or a doctor, but you have to do good. Wherever this road takes you after you graduate, you have to commit yourself to being a good human being.”

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