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Addressing Student Basic Needs Is Crucial!

The Power of Opportunity: One Student at a Time 

In 2015, Viola Davis, a beacon of excellence, won the Emmy for Lead Actress. Known for her unwavering dedication and talent, she used her acceptance speech to highlight the critical importance of opportunity. She declared, “The only thing separating women of color from anyone else is opportunity,” emphasizing the need for more diverse roles in the industry. Her words resonated deeply with me, recalling my own struggles with missed opportunities due to my religious identity, appearance, and name, hindering my educational and professional growth.

Attending an all-Islamic high school, I saw exceptional talent within my community, yet opportunities were scarce. As I progressed through my undergraduate years, I found the lack of opportunity increasingly unacceptable. It became ingrained in my nature to not only seek opportunities for myself but also to share them with others through mentoring and establishing mentorship systems, particularly for students and communities of color.

One mentor who profoundly influenced me was a remarkable Muslim woman I met after high school. A third-year medical student, she was involved in refugee work, studied Arabic abroad, and led interfaith initiatives on campus. Her mentorship introduced me to extraordinary opportunities and represented the kind of representation I aspired to see more of.

However, many students face barriers to accessing such opportunities due to limited resources and access to basic needs. In New York college campuses, I witness the daily struggles of peers dealing with food insecurity, housing instability, and mental health challenges, which not only impede academic pursuits but also severely limit access to opportunities.

Food insecurity undermines physical health and cognitive function, hindering academic progress. Housing instability disrupts studies and limits engagement in campus life and extracurricular activities. Inadequate mental health support compounds these challenges, affecting academic performance and career prospects.

These systemic barriers create a formidable obstacle to accessing higher education’s full potential, perpetuating inequality and denying countless individuals the chance to thrive. Colleges and universities in New York must recognize these intersecting issues and take decisive action to dismantle barriers to student success.

By investing in holistic support services, advocating for policy changes, and fostering inclusivity, we can create an environment where every student has the opportunity to thrive, regardless of background or circumstances. This is essential to fulfilling the promise of higher education and unlocking the boundless potential of all students.

Shorooq Omran was born and raised in Staten Island, New York. Shorooq is studying Political Science and Biology at Stony Brook University and minoring in Africana Studies, on the pre-med track. She has worked with different organizations such as iMentor on education access and mentor recruitment, the Asiyah Women’s Center on domestic violence survivor advocacy, and with Paper Airplanes as an English tutor and career mentor. Shorooq hopes to attend medical school, and pursue a masters in human rights to overlap her career interests.