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Mentoring program helps Somali refugee succeed

Thursday May 18, 2017

Screen Grab from WCSH-TV video

PORTLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- Anyone who's graduated college knows it's tough to get through without a lot of support. Abdi Abdirahman could soon be the first person in his family to go to law school. It is a goal that never even occurred to him in high school, until he got involved with Jobs for Maine's Graduates (JMG).
Abdirahman admits he first signed up for JMG at South Portland High School because he thought it would be an easy class. "And what I learned there lasted more than what I learned in my other classes," he said.

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Abdirahman's JMG teacher was Randy Inosencio. Abdirahman says Inosencio taught him how to write a resume, how to apply for financial aid in college, and how to apply for scholarships. Abdirahman's family fled the civil war in Somalia when he was 4. He said his parents are big believers in education, but speak very little English themselves. "My parents always pushed us to follow education because they brought us in  this country for a better opportunity than they had in Somalia," he said.

Abdirahman started at the University of Maine in Orono, but transferred to the University of Southern Maine to be closer to his family. "My grades weren't the best that first year at UMaine. I think I had a 2.6 GPA and I was just doing things like applying to classes very late, stuff like that," he said.
But in 2015, the Maine Legislature directed JMG to start a college success program. JMG had been able to get most of its students through high school, but many of them found college to be a challenge.
Inosencio moved from South Portland High to USM. He said, "I was walking through campus and I heard, 'Hey! Mr. I!' and I looked back and there he was." It was Abdirahman.

Abdirahman said Inosencio's support made all the difference in getting him through college. "Randy would just remind me, email me 'Hey, class registration's coming up!'"
Inosencio also made sure Abdirahman was aware of networking opportunities when Abdirahman showed an interest in going to law school. Abdirahman said, "I know he's not just my teacher anymore. He's a good friend."
Inosencio said, "Watching him not knowing what he's going to do, and then seeing him walk through college graduation and possibly more is rewarding. It's an exciting day."

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