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Only two short years ago, Hajja Trawally would have been seen as a quiet student at Odyssey High School on the Tyee Educational Complex. Today, Hajja has risen as a leader who has become successful in school, who has high aspirations for her future and who is making a difference in the world. Hajja moved to the SeaTac area from Gambia in the Spring of 2010 and joined CSC programs at the Tyee campus. Shortly after joining CSC, Hajja began utilizing the homework help center and getting support with her academics as well as getting involved in leadership activities. Hajja’s teacher, Timothy Chang, comments that “it has been amazing to see how much she has grown… Her academic-mindedness, her kind and helpful ways towards classmates, and her thoughtful responses in class all add to our community.” With small yet significant ways, Hajja is impacting her community in positive ways.
Hajja is a leader in the Peer Health Council (PHC), a group of students committed to education, advocacy and creating a healthier environment for their peers. Hajja, along with the PHC, teaches a Healthy Cooking Class at CSC’s program at Chinook Middle School. The peer health leaders talk to the middle school students about healthy food options and teach them how to cook a healthy meal. Amanda Howard, CSC Health Program Manager and PHC advisor notes that Hajja “has emerged as a leader with her growing ability to express and vocalize her ideas as well as be a voice advocating for her community.” Hajja has pushed herself to step out of her comfort zone in order to help others. Recently, Hajja attended the Youth Action Day at the state capitol where she testified in front of the Legislative Youth Action Council (LYAC) in behalf of students on the Free/Reduced Lunch Program having access to healthy and nutritious food at their schools. Hajja also spoke in front of SeaTac City Council to advocate for smoke-free parks. Despite the fear that comes with public speaking, Hajja knew that someone needed to speak up in behalf of students in her community -- saying “I knew that if I didn’t say something, there wouldn’t be another day to say it.”
Hajja is also a leader in Totem Fun Fitness (TFF), a student-lead program addressing childhood obesity at Bow Lake Elementary School. The students in TFF plan and facilitate fitness activities for elementary students, getting young people moving in a fun and engaging way. “I learn a lot from the kids” says Hajja, “We’re learning from each other.” Nichole Won, the TFF Advisor, has seen Hajja grow immensely in her understanding of her role as a mentor to the younger students as well as her ability to assert herself as a leader. She has become more outgoing, speaking her mind amongst other outspoken leaders. It is inspiring to see Hajja rise up as a leader in ways she never thought she could. “What is especially remarkable” says Chang, “is that English is not Hajja’s first language. She has had to overcome the challenges of learning academic English while adjusting to the US. She has had to work very hard.” Despite these challenges, Hajja has sought out the support and opportunities that have allowed her to not only be successful, but to become a leader and an advocate in her community.
In the many leadership roles that Hajja plays, perhaps the most meaningful to her is her ability to extend her leadership from her community to her home. When she goes home for the day, she shares what she has learned with her mom and her sisters. She helps her family to buy healthy food, and she exercises with her younger sisters. With the opportunities and support that comes from CSC, Hajja is truly making a difference.