Boise State University student Sara Alsaifi credits her teachers and her family for her drive to overcome a troubled past and tackle a path to become a physician.
They encouraged her to chase her dreams. So she did.
When she was only 6 years old, Alsaifi’s family emigrated to the United States as refugees. Fleeing violence and conflict in Syria, the family reestablished itself in Boise. The disruptions in her education combined with a challenging language barrier caused Sara to fall behind her peers in school.
But by high school, Alsaifi had enrolled in multiple advanced placement courses. She was involved in clubs at school, and played the flute in marching band and wind symphony. The credit for her ability to catch up, she says, goes to the teachers and leaders in the Boise School District who built up her confidence and encouraged her to set high goals from a young age.
“Wanting to go into the medical field was a little challenging especially since it’s known to be a very rigorous and difficult field to get into,” said Alsaifi. “The support system I had here in school…fostered the mentality that if you work on something for long enough, you can make it happen.”
Alsaifi attended Timberline High School, where science teacher Annie Muniz helped spark her interest in medicine.
“(She) supported my goals and really challenged me to look beyond them,” said Alsaifi. “I took AP biology and anatomy and physiology because I liked her so much. We still keep in contact.”
Muniz and Alsaifi collaborated to create a science club at Timberline to help students find joy in science and learning. Muniz says Alsaifi was one of her best students in 25 years of teaching.
“Sara has a passion that is infectious and the work ethic to achieve her dreams,” said Muniz. “Sara is an amazing person. I have seen her work with other students in the most positive way, always kind and helpful. I believe that Sara…will be a wonderful medical doctor that will be sought after due to her meticulous work and kind heart.”
In anticipation for her sophomore year at Boise State, Alsaifi searched the web for financial assistance opportunities. She came across Scholarship America’s Dream Award and decided to apply. The renewable award is for students with financial need who have faced significant challenges in their path to a degree. Alsaifi is one of 20 winners nationwide.
With the win, Alsaifi was invited to Washington, D.C., to meet donors and other recipients.
“We did a lot of professional networking and met other people who have been in similar shoes and are really successful,” said the sophomore. “We got to socialize and see the city. It was really good.”
Alsaifi will return to Boise State this fall as a molecular biology major, statistics tutor and student lab researcher. She currently works remotely as a scribe for a medical clinic in Indiana, and volunteers at Saint Alphonsus in Boise.