Intercultural Leadership, Education & Development Fellowship Program
"War breaks up families," Bibi Abdalla '09 says. She knows first hand. Her family fled civil war in Somalia when she was a toddler. Two of her nine siblings were killed. Another almost drowned.
At a refugee camp in Kenya, Bibi was taught by a tutor. When her family settled in Saint Paul, Bibi was 8. She was energized by school and admits she always raised her hand to answer questions. Her tenacity allowed her to skip grades, and at the age of 20, Bibi accomplished what had seemed out of reach: she graduated from college.
Bibi was one of 13 students in the first Intercultural Leadership, Education and Development Fellowship cohort to graduate in May 2009. The program is geared to first-generation college students from diverse, urban high schools throughout the U.S. Fellowships are awarded to qualified students with demonstrated leadership ability. Fellows receive specialized training, are required to assume leadership roles on campus and in the community, and are encouraged to participate in leadership development opportunities.
Through the program, Bibi was able to complete service learning trips in China, Trinidad, and Kenya. She also earned an elite invitation to the Public Policy and Leadership Conference at Harvard. Now, she is in a 9-month public affairs graduate program as a Coro Fellow. Her eye is on the United Nations and ending civil wars.
"Before I leave this world," she says, "if I could help stabilize one country, that would mean a lot."
Currently, Saint Ben's has 51 Fellows in the program. First-year Fellow Kia Lor hopes to be on the same trajectory as Bibi. She emigrated from a Thailand refugee camp when she was four. Her single mother didn't always have money for groceries. Now attending Saint Ben's as a Gates Millennium Scholarship recipient and an Intercultural Leadership, Education and Development Fellow, she sees a bright future:"When they call my name, I will take my degree and hold it up for my mom to see it. She will be so proud, and I can see her crying tears of joy."
The Intercultural Leadership, Education and Development Fellowship Fund is one of many gift opportunities at Saint Ben's.