Mayada Arbab has traveled over continents and across oceans. And while her graduation from Overland High School will be a major milestone for her and her family, Arbab still has a long way to go before her journey is complete.
Arbab, 18, was born and raised in the war-torn Darfur region of Sudan. Her family fled the strife and lack of opportunities of Arbab’s homeland to go to Egypt when she was 6. She and her family lived there until coming to the United States about six years ago.
“I grew up in Egypt because Sudan was such a bad place to live. And my mother, she wanted us to have a better education, because in Egypt they had better access to education than in Sudan,” Arbab said. “I want to make my mother proud.
“She wanted us to graduate because, back home, we didn’t know if we were going to school,” she added. “She didn’t finish school, she dropped out in eighth grade because she had to take care of my uncles who were younger than her. She wanted to come here because of our education, and I want to make her proud and make her dream come true.”
Arriving in the metro area six years ago, Arbab said it was difficult to get acclimated to a new country, new culture and a new language. But, she said, it was easier for her to become acclimated compared to her two older siblings — both of whom graduated from Overland — because she started in elementary school instead of high school.
“It was kind of scary because I hadn’t met anyone from the same country as me,” Arbab recalled. “Everyone knew English and everyone knew each other and it was a hard thing. But it was better for me to start from a lower class because, if you’re in high school, it’s harder. For me it was easier than what my brother and sister had.
“On my sister’s second day (at Overland) she lost her backpack because she didn’t know where to put it. It was hard at first for all of us.”
Arbab said the support she received from the staff at Overland helped in her to transition into high school and get more acclimated to the U.S. She is now set to attend either University of Colorado Denver or Colorado State University, where she hopes to study biology and then go into pharmaceutical research.
While she loves her new home — and the Denver Broncos — her goal is to return to the place she still calls home to help.
“Many of my family in Africa have died of cancer. My aunt passed one year ago from cancer when she had my nephew,” she said.
“I want to help everyone in my country,” Arbab added. “I know a lot of girls that are going through a lot of things and they don’t have anyone to help them. In the genocide, they are killing babies, they are raping girls. And I want to help them.”