Class of 2020 Senior Stories: Tahmina Akhter
School: Carver High School of Engineering & Science
Nominated By: Tatiana Olmedo – Counselor
What do you do when the odds are stacked against you? Many School District of Philadelphia students are faced with that question every day. What’s inspiring though, is that so many of them never retreat or give up – they stand and face the odds. They tackle the challenges with profound maturity and fortitude. Tahmina Akhter is a shining example of someone beating the odds.
Born in Bangladesh, Tahmina is the youngest (and only girl) of four children. Her father left the family to come to the U.S. with the goal of eventually saving enough money to relocate his entire family. Perhaps Tahmina got her perseverant spirit from her father – it would be 18 years before the entire Akhter family would reunite in America in 2009. As joyous an occasion as the reunion was, there were also the hurdles of not knowing the language, finding a place to live, going to school – overcoming the distance was only half the battle. Tahmina has won those battles and many more to get to graduation.
In 2016, Tahmina’s father Bashir Ahmed, the sole financial provider for the family, was diagnosed with Type II Diabetes and was no longer able to work. Since her two oldest brothers had already left home and her youngest older brother was getting ready to leave for college, the role of primary caretaker fell to Tahmina, a freshman in high school who had only recently become fluent in English. While her mother kept the home, Tahmina conversed with doctors, insurance companies, pharmacists and therapists, to ensure her father received his needed care. She took weekend jobs in order to provide an income to pay for that care. All this on top of maintaining excellent grades.
Tahmina is still balancing these responsibilities today. She is not afraid of the continuing challenges and she’s proud of what she has already achieved. “I’ve overcome so much during high school,” said Tahmina. “But I haven’t failed a class, I’ve taken care of my family. And I’ve learned a lot about medicine!”
She’s learned so much about medicine, that she intends to become a pediatrician. “I love kids,” Tahmina said. “I have a desire to help people, and I already know a lot about the medical field so it’s a good fit.” With the help of the attentive teachers and counselors at Carver, especially her counselor and nominator Ms. Olmedo, Tahmina has been accepted to various colleges including Temple and LaSalle – but is likely going to pursue her nursing degree at Neumann before entering medical school. Since traditionally Bangladeshi women marry early, Tahmina will be the first woman in her family to go to college. “My parents and brothers are very supportive,” she said. “They love me, they’re proud of me, and they support my goals, so we’ve found a good balance between goals and tradition.”
Tahmina is excited about graduation. She’s thankful for the adults in her life, like Ms. Olmedo, who advocated for her when she was balancing her responsibilities and beating the odds. She implores her peers and classmates to always respect the teachers and counselors who are pouring their lives into students – and acknowledges that they are not perfect, but they deserve respect because they are always there when needed. “I’ve worked so hard and come so far,” she says. “I feel appreciated, I feel like the work that I’ve done matters. I feel respected even though I’m young and I believe respect is the greatest gift you can give someone. I feel like I deserve this!”
You absolutely deserve this! Congratulations on beating the odds, and your graduation Tahmina!