Central Senior will start at UofL in the fall, majoring in public health
May 20, 2020 – As a child in the West African country of Ghana, schooling was always the goal for Saeedatu Nasara Shamsudeen, even though she didn’t realize it at the time. Her parents left her and her younger siblings in the care of an aunt for six years while they worked abroad so they could send back money to provide the children with a good education.
“The main reason my parents left in the first place was so I could get a better education,” she said. For years Nasara feared she would never see her parents again, and she lacked the courage to tell them that at times she and her siblings would not be allowed to go to school. As soon as she did, she said her parents did everything in their power to bring her and her siblings to the U.S., and realize “their dreams to give their children an education they never had.”
That lesson never left her.
“Because of the sacrifices of my parents, I was inspired to work harder and capture the ‘powerful weapon that is education,’ as Nelson Mandela said.”
Today, the Central High School Career Magnet Academy senior, who plans to attend the University of Louisville to pursue a degree in public health on a pre-med track, received an important tool in her education arsenal: She was one of four Jefferson County Public Schools (JCPS) students awarded a scholarship from the JCPS Employee-Sponsored Student Scholarship Fund.
JCPS Superintendent Dr. Marty Pollio surprised Nasara at her home with the $6,000 award.
“I’m shaking so much I can’t even hold the check,” an emotional Nasara said after the check presentation. “This means so much to me. Coming from a place where we weren’t exposed to a lot of educational opportunities, this is going to let me go to college debt-free. I’m so grateful, from the bottom of my heart.”
Growing up in Ghana, where many prescriptions can be bought over the counter, she saw firsthand the dangers of how medications could be misused, fueling her interest in healthcare and health policy.
Since moving to the U.S. in 2012, Nasara has excelled, making straight A’s since fifth grade. She’ll graduate from Central as class salutatorian, and was a 2019 Governor’s Scholar. In addition to her studies, she was captain of her soccer team for two years, played the trumpet in the school marching band, and was president of both HOSA - Future Health Professionals and Beta clubs. She also participated in social justice programs outside of school and interned at a pharmacy.
Nasara has overcome other obstacles to excel in new ventures. The summer before her freshman year she went to Kentucky Kingdom for the first time, and she and her friends decided to go into wave pool, despite the fact that she couldn’t swim. “I kind of underestimated the deepness and I almost drowned,” she recalls, so when she found out Central had a swim team she decided to learn.
Nasara joined the Central swim team and swam all four years, making it to regional finals this year. Not bad, considering she didn’t know how to swim until her freshman year.
A big sister to four younger siblings – she has two younger sisters and two younger brothers – she’s also had to be a source of comfort to them. During frightening times in Ghana she would tell her sisters, “It’s ok, this isn’t going to be forever – mom and dad will be there. You’re always going to have somebody in your life who’s going to care for you. Whatever you do you should keep your head up.”
It’s a lesson she has followed herself.
“My parents stressed education. They always pushed me and my siblings to do better, and always reminded us, ‘you were struggling in Ghana and now you’re here, you have so many opportunities, and you have to do anything you can and get good grades to get far in life.’ ”
“Education is a second chance,” she added, “and offers many life changing opportunities.”