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Teen determined to graduate – with a little help from her friends

Soomaiya Qurban (right) gets some help with a science assignment from Grade 11 Kwantlen Park Secondary students Vanessa Pleitez and Monica Dilag, two of several students who have offered to help Qurban graduate this year. - Evan Seal / The Leader
Soomaiya Qurban (right) gets some help with a science assignment from Grade 11 Kwantlen Park Secondary students Vanessa Pleitez and Monica Dilag, two of several students who have offered to help Qurban graduate this year.
— image credit: Evan Seal / The Leader

Born in Afghanistan and raised in Pakistan, Soomaiya Qurban didn't have the opportunity to get an education as a child.

Only her eldest brother attended school, while she and her older twin sisters had to stay home.

"There was so much war and we couldn't go to school," the 19-year-old says.

But that all changed when her siblings and parents immigrated to Canada in 2004. Their goal, says Qurban: "to have a better life and to study."

Her sisters, she says, now attend college in Vancouver. And she intends to follow in their footsteps toward higher education.

A student at Kwantlen Park Secondary since Grade 9, Qurban, who's now fluent in English, thought she was on track to finish high school last spring. She was, in fact, but didn't have the necessary credits for her to get into college or university.

So she headed back to high school last September. Determined to do well, she asked teacher Russ Greenall for some study help. He posted a sign-up sheet in his Grade 11 science class, asking students if they'd mind offering up some of their time to tutor Qurban.

The list, he says, filled up quickly and has never been blank.

"There was no problem generating that kind of enthusiasm," Greenall says. "There's a core group that have just been incredible."

Two of the dozen or so volunteer students are Vanessa Pleitez and Monica Dilag. The 16-year-olds say they've been inspired by Qurban and her determination and commitment.

"You can tell how much she wants to finish," Dilag says.

Pleitez adds that returning several times a week to help her new friend is an easy decision.

"She said me helping her actually helped, so it makes me want to keep doing it."

Qurban said she was surprised so many students cared and wanted to work with her. With provincial exams fast approaching, she figures she can knock three of her courses off her list this semester and finish the remaining three in time for graduation in June.

Her dream of becoming elementary school teacher makes all the extra studying worthwhile, she says.

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