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Student Speaker at Winter Graduation Offers Hope to Other Immigrants

Editor's Note: This profile is part of a series that features the stories of more than a dozen graduates whose outstanding educational journeys have culminated in a UMGC degree.

Gil Klein
By Gil Klein
  • Commencement |
  • News

When student Mohamed Babiker spoke at the University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC), commencement, his story rang true for other students who overcame great odds to earn their diplomas. But it also resonated in a particularly touching way for recent immigrants who struggle to make a place for themselves in their new country.

Babiker, who was selected as student speaker for UMGC’s virtual 2022 winter commencement ceremony, was born and raised in Sudan, a country marked by a civil war and long history of instability.  He said his family emigrated when it beat the odds and won a coveted permanent residency visa in the U.S. government’s annual lottery. 

“When my parents were granted this opportunity, they responded by working to lift themselves by the bootstraps, working multiple shifts and long hours, taking courses and classes to make themselves fit parent for us in this country—not knowing that their spirit alone was more than fit to raise queens and kings long before they crossed oceans to come here,” Babiker said.

In sharing his family’s story, he also acknowledged how his fellow students also made sacrifices on the way to their degrees.

“They sacrificed precious energy and time—mind, body and soul—to get to where they are today,” Babiker said “In the process, I learned that it takes vision, creativity and courage to view yourself as what you could be instead of what you have been and what you are. 

“It is the ultimate display of bravery and pursuit of freedom to take that courage and transform it into action,” he added.

Babiker said that after his family arrived in the United States, his mother would take him and his sisters to the local library and language center where she spent half the day, several times a week, studying English. His father juggled multiple jobs to provide for the family, flipping burgers at Burger King, working at a Chinese takeout, delivering pizza late into the night, driving a taxi.

“My sisters and I sometimes didn’t see him for days,” Babiker said.

Soon, his mother was working odd hours so the family had enough money to move from a cramped apartment in a dangerous neighborhood to a new place where they didn’t have to fear being alone while their parents worked.

“My father and mother would wake me and my sisters in the middle of the night and pack us into her beat-up Mercury Villager to drive my mother to her nightshift at a television manufacturing company where she would clean new television screens before they were installed,”Babiker recalled.

All that hard work paid off. His parents saved enough to have the family visit Sudan to stay in touch with their roots while also supporting their children’s education. Babiker’s siblings enrolled in college and graduate programs, and his youngest sister excelled in a local STEM charter school. 

Now Babiker’s is graduation from UMGC with a Master of Science in Cloud Computing Systems joins the family’s achievements.

Babiker said some people’s dreams get lost through timidity and discouragement. But that doesn’t apply to the UMGC graduates who sacrificed so much to pursue their aspirations, he said.

“We have chosen to stand valiantly in expressing who we are in our entirety, in our wholeness, unapologetically,” he said. “We stand before you today, bold, authentic and rich in spirit as we march forward bringing our dreams to life. 

“My parents, myself, you all, we are the epitome of our ancestors’ wildest dreams.”