Stories: Vajiheh

Before coming to Chicago, she dreamed of being an Architect
Thanks to your support, she’s well on her way.

From an early age, Vajiheh had a passion for learning and a penchant for art and math. But after her family was forced to flee—first from Afghanistan to Iran and later to Turkey—her aspirations were overshadowed by the challenges they now faced.

“I wanted to be the first woman in my family to go to college and prove that women can work as architects, too,” she said.

Despite her setbacks, Vajiheh never lost sight of her goal of pursuing an education. In Turkey and Iran, she dedicated herself to learning Turkish and Farsi in addition to her native language of Dari.

​When her family was finally selected for resettlement after more than 15 years of displacement, Vajiheh was both excited and nervous to go to an American school.

“When I first arrived, it was very hard because I was learning two new things: the lessons and English,” she said.

RefugeeOne helped Vajiheh enroll at Mather High School and matched her with a volunteer tutor to help her practice English and catch up with her peers. Determined to succeed, Vajiheh also attended optional tutoring at school every day for the next 6 months.

As her English improved, so did her confidence. Not only was she making new friends and adjusting to life in Chicago, but she excelled academically, too. At Mather, she completed grades 9 and 10 in just one year before transferring to Sullivan High.

Thanks to her hard work and the help of friends like you, Vajiheh continued to flourish in school. She graduated from Sullivan High with a nearly perfect GPA, receiving only two B’s in the two years she was there.

As she personally knows the challenges refugee youth face upon arrival to Chicago, Vajiheh spent her summer after high school working at RefugeeOne’s summer day camp, helping other recently-arrived refugee children.

From there, Vajiheh started her journey to becoming an architect. Now fluent in four languages, she is enrolled at Northeastern Illinois University. After 2 years there, she plans to transfer to University of Illinois at Chicago to finish her degree.


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