In recognition of
National Women's History Month
, we salute two of the extraordinary young women in PAIR's programs. These two high school seniors have embraced the opportunities America offers them. With hard work and the support of their teachers and mentors, they are on track to graduate - with big plans for their future. Meet them below.
Pendeza Byaale is a refugee from Democratic Republic of Congo and Tanzania who arrived in Houston in 2010. She struggled to adjust to life in the U.S. - she did not read or write her native Swahili when she got here, and she knew no English! Today, she is about to graduate from Wisdom High School.
Pendeza is a role model for newcomers. She is president of the PAIR program at Wisdom and active in the school's theater program. She also sings in her church choir. She plans to attend Houston Community College on her way to a degree in biochemistry - and eventually medicine. Pendeza says:
Without PAIR, I don't think that the dreams I am planning for myself, like going to college, would have existed.
Purnima Siwa is a refugee from Nepal who arrived in Houston in 2011. She recalls the difficulties of those early days in Houston. She and her family were isolated because they knew no English, and they knew nothing about their new home. But they persevered, and Purnima has now embraced her life here.
Purnima attends Westbury High School, where she's served as a leader of the PAIR program and in the school's organization of students in the health sciences. She has done many community service projects and is on the varsity honors debate team and the tennis team. Last year she volunteered in PAIR's summer program for middle school students "helping newcomers adapt to their new home just like I did."
Purnima will graduate from Westbury High School this May. Her plans for next year depend on the results of her scholarship applications. But eventually, she plans to work in the medical field - as a doctor or a nurse. Purnima says,
PAIR has been the most important part of my new life in America.... Every single day that I go there I am inspired and thankful to PAIR for making me feel like I am a person