Feb 2015 AAUW President’s Letter by Beth Nienow

For several years our  branch has been a sponsor of the RCTC Foundation’s Beat the Odds scholarship program.  As you know, this program awards college scholarships to high school students who have overcome personal and family hardships.  Each year we hear amazing accounts from the students themselves of the obstacles they have had to overcome.

Another way our branch reaches out to help others beat the odds is through our support of the Sisters of St. Francis human trafficking awareness committee. In January, a series of articles in the Post Bulletin described trafficking involving very young girls in North Dakota’s Bakken oilfield region, and sadly, we know trafficking takes place even closer to home as well.  We may even unknowingly support labor trafficking, a form of modern day slavery, by the way we do our shopping, as a workshop presented at Assisi Heights recently pointed out.

At our luncheon in March, we will have the opportunity to hear from a Rochester woman who has overcome tremendous obstacles in her journey to become a registered nurse at Mayo Clinic.  As she describes in her memoir “Conquering the Odds: Journey of a Sheperd Girl”, Habibo Haji survived crocodiles, malaria, civil war, and rape during her youth in rural Somalia and then in the world’s largest refugee camp in Kenya.  Eventually she was selected to come to the United States, where she experienced an entirely new set of challenges.  Through innate intelligence and sheer determination, Habibo overcame her obstacles. In her memoir, Habibo writes that she shares her story in order to make a difference, to advocate for young girls who were like herself, having no opportunity for education. Today she is able to send money to her family members in Africa to ensure that her younger siblings can attend school.  Habibo embodies the AAUW mission.

In April we will learn about Rochester Reading Champions, a literacy program our branch has supported with community projects funds, as well as a literacy program of the United Way.  Rochester Reading Champions provides individualized tutoring to young people at the Boys and Girls Club and will also work with the Adult Detention Center to help inmates improve their reading proficiency.

Thank you, AAUW members, for carrying out our mission to help others beat the odds.


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