Amal Ahmed, a senior at Kent-Meridian High School, did not speak English when she started her freshman year of high school. HEIDI SANDERS, Kent Reporter

Support from teachers, family helps Kent-Meridian student overcome challenges | GREAT GRADS ’17

As Amal Ahmed prepares to graduate from Kent-Meridian High School on Saturday, she said she couldn’t have done it without the support and encouragement from her teachers, counselor and family.

Ahmed, 21, moved to Kent from Kenya in 2013 and didn’t know English when she began her freshman year of high school.

“I didn’t even know how to say hi,” Ahmed said.

With help from her teachers and family, Ahmed learned English and completed high school in four years.

“It was difficult,” she said. “I got a lot of help from my teachers. I stayed after school. They helped me with it.”

Ahmed found the support she needed from her parents and seven siblings.

“They are always on my side – helping me, pushing me,” she said.

Born in Ethiopia, Ahmed moved to the northeastern United States when she was 4 years old and spent five years there before moving to Kenya.

Ahmed learned English while living in the U.S. the first time but forgot most of it while in Kenya.

“I was breaking English and Somali together when I went back,” she said. “I was struggling with that. Nobody knew English.”

Being older than her classmates at Kent-Meridian doesn’t bother Ahmed.

“I got used to it,” she said. “It doesn’t matter how old you are as long you learn something. That is the important thing.”

Learning English isn’t the only challenge Ahmed overcame. She was diagnosed with glaucoma in 2014.

“I lost (vision in) one eye,” she said. “Now I am using one eye to see. I almost failed all my classes, but (I passed) thanks to my teachers. They always believed in me.”

Having glaucoma inspired Ahmed to pursue a career as a health specialist to help others dealing with the disease. She plans to attend Green River College in the fall.

Ahmed encourages others to ask for help as she learned to do.

“I was a shy person when I came here,” she said. “I was shy to ask for help even though I wanted it. I would tell (others) no matter how shy you are just ask them even you don’t think the question is right. At least ask them and see what answer they give you.”