SBHS graduate Sanarya Kareem will attend UVM this fall.

A Bright Future: Sanarya Kareem Receives the TOP Scholarship

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Thursday August 02, 2018

Sanarya Kareem, a recent graduate of South Burlington High School (SBHS), is the recipient of 2018 The Other Paper Scholarship. Kareem graduated June 15 magna cum laude and is a member of the National Honor Society. Judy Kearns, publisher and editor, said, “It was my privilege to give this scholarship to Sanarya. Her academic skills and writing prowess are only outshone by her gifts of optimism, perseverance, and undaunted determination. We look forward to see what’s next for this bright young woman.”

“I was surprised that I had received this scholarship. I only found out 30 minutes before my graduation when a friend came up to me and showed me the program of the day. I was extremely happy, and my first thought was to call my mother and tell her the good news,” said Kareem. “It means further progress towards my educational goals.”

Kareem’s road to South Burlington was not an easy one. Born in Iraq, she moved with her family to Syria at a young age due to the ravages of war. She writes, that as a young girl, “I slept with my hands over my mouth to muffle my cries and woke up from recurring nightmares about my father. He traveled to Iraq for a living, and every time he kissed us goodbye one thought lingered in the back of my mind, ‘Will I see him again?’ In my mother’s absence, I would gather my siblings in a corner far from windows — as if walls could prevent bullets.”

In a childhood that included eight different apartments in three different countries, she was one of millions seeking refuge. When Kareem was 12, her family made their way to the United States. She recalls, “I began to feel as if I sheltered myself from wars only to fight another brewing within my psyche. The novelty of a new culture was like holding my Iraqi flag in one hand and the American flag in the other while balancing on a tightrope. I could not be too American or too Iraqi.” Kareem adds a truth evocative of the strength and bond of her upbringing, “Regardless of the tribulations I faced, I discovered my family was my home.”

In 2013, the Kareem family moved to South Burlington and Sanarya began eighth grade at Frederick H. Tuttle Middle School. “I remember being nervous. I was afraid of how people would react to my accent or inability to speak. But I eventually found a home at school, and that was my small ELL (English Language Learner) class,” says Kareem, adding, “It definitely had its challenges and those exist to this day. The cultural differences made it much harder to assimilate or rather to connect with my peers. Language was a constant barrier as well.”

When meeting Kareem, it is difficult to imagine any barriers in her way. Vivacious, articulate, and keenly present, she shows herself not only as a young woman well prepared for college, but for life itself. Although her confidence and effervescent smile belie what must have been a daunting and courageous journey for anyone, let alone, a young girl, Kareem looks to her future with bright eyes all while consciously aware of her parents’ resolve and contribution. “My parents dedicated their entire lives for my comfort and my siblings. Moving to the U.S. hasn’t been an easy experience or a smooth ride, however, my dad and mom helped me through it even when they needed help themselves. I hold the utmost respect and love for both of them and I could never begin to repay them for their sacrifices.”

Kareem leaves South Burlington High School (SBHS) with many fond memories. Noting her friends and their “constant laughter during the school day or free time,” she says, “I will miss my educators, the ones that helped me get to where I am today. I will also miss the familiar environment I have come to love and feel safe in.”

While at SBHS, Kareem worked as a food server at the University of Vermont (UVM) Medical Center; a job she will keep once she begins college this fall at UVM. She values the work in what seems to be a naturally occurring appreciation on all topics. “Being able to put a smile on a patient’s face during the few moments I’m present in their room truly impacts my life and theirs.”

Meanwhile, as summer turned the calendar page to August, Kareem prepares for college in between work hours. Enrolled in SESP (Summer Enrichment Scholars Program), she is studying, writing and describing the program as “an amazing experience.” Soon she will turn her attention to UVM. “What I’m looking forward to the most is having the freedom to choose my path and explore my learning preferences. As of a major, I’m undeclared but I have an interest in law-related subjects.”

Kareem adds, “I want to thank The Other Paper for extending me this opportunity and for funding this scholarship. A scholarship that truly helps many students. Thank you for investing in my future and aiding me with achieving the dreams I had mapped out for myself ever since I was a little child.”


SOURCE: Carole Vasta Folley, The Other Paper