Irene Keyes Memorial Fund
National Conference for College Women Student Leaders (NCCWSL)
Questions: Marcine Humphrey
2017 Recipient Qadan Mohamed
By Qadan Mohamed - Marist College student
I am beyond grateful that I was selected and awarded this scholarship. Opportunities like this scholarship make a significant difference in the lives of driven and passionate women.
My experience at the NCCWSL 2017 conference was simple but powerful. I learned a lot from listening, observing and engaging. Understanding one's self worth was a crucial theme I was constantly reminded of at this conference. Growing up, there were countless times that I went to bed wishing I could wake up different. (Note: Qadan was born with one arm)
I did not like how I looked or felt when I was teased. Being different is not “normal” in the eyes of others and I wanted to feel “normal.” It was not until I graduated from high school that I started to love and accept myself. I am still learning to build my confidence. It has only been a few years since I started to stop focusing on the need to feel “normal” to reach my full potential and Jessamine Stanley’s journey was a perfect reminder that it is never too late to realize your own value. Small things like going out for shopping can be challenging for me because I have to think about what to do with the empty sleeve or how to wear a sleeveless dress or top. I always thought that my trouble of loving myself fully was about my missing arm, but now I know it has always been about my lack of self love and respect. Stanley could have quit the second time she tried yoga just like she did before but the difference was persistence and positivity. Even though I did not have the chance to talk to Stanley in person, I am grateful that I was introduced to her and for the great cause she stands for.
The 2017 Women of Distinction Event was a very eventful and empowering aspect of this conference. I had the opportunity to meet and talk to people like Amanda Nguyen. It is one thing to meet an inspirational person, but it is another to look beyond their success to realize that their change did not happen overnight. I had a few minutes to talk to Amanda Nguyen to thank her for her bravery and persistence for her foundation” Rise.” In many communities sexual assault survivors are blamed for what happened to them. Some girls are married off to their rapist to save her and her family's reputation. So seeing and meeting Nguyen was a perfect reminder that we need to persist and accept challenges that come our way to make a difference.
My experience from this conference gave me a better vision of what lies ahead in college and after. As an international student and first in my family in college, I am committed not only to creating opportunities for my future, but also for other girls and women in my community. I met strong, educated, and transformative women at NCCWSL, and I want to see more women like them. So, I feel like my experience at this conference will go a long way, and I will continue to advocate for creating more leadership opportunities on campus.
Qadan Mohamed, a sophomore at Marist College, was the 2017 recipient of the Irene Keyes Memorial Scholarship to attend NCCWSL. Qadan is one of 12 siblings born in the country of Somaliland and is the first in her family to finish high school and attend college.
Highly recommended by her professors, she became a member of and a top student in the Honors Program at Marist College. The Honors Program at Marist provides students with academic and cultural enrichment through a series of seminars, events, and research opportunities.
Ms. Mohamed has quickly become one of the best students in the program. Ms. Mohamed has helped plan an event bringing the headmaster of her Somali academy, Jonathan Starr, to Marist to discuss his work in Africa with the Honors Program students. Starr gave a talk to the Honors students on April 3rd. “Ms. Mohamed has been the heart and soul behind this event, and it was a profound experience for students contemplating how they can make an impact on the problems of our world.” Qadan is involved in a wide range of organizations on the campus.
Jonathan Star, founder of the Abarasso School in Somaliland, wrote that Qadan is from the countryside of Somaliland in the breakaway region of Somalia which is one of the “poorest and most war torn places on earth.” As a girl in a conservative Muslim country, which prefers to invest in its boys, she obtained a scholarship to attend school. If her gender “wasn’t challenging enough, she was born with one arm.”
Whether she is tutoring, volunteering at the Campus Ministry, or maintaining her 4.0 GPA, she is passionate about empowering women and girls. She is hoping “to leave this conference empowered by all the women leaders in attendance, having formed lasting connections, and with a better vision of how to accomplish my plan to fight for the rights of women and young girls…” Her dream is to someday put an end to the extreme practice of Female Genital Mutilation, all too common in her home country.
IRENE KEYES MEMORIAL FUND
Irene Keyes (1949-2011)
Irene C. Keyes, passed away suddenly on Saturday, July 2, 2011.
Irene was born March 7, 1949 in Middletown, N.Y. Irene was a graduate of Middletown High School in 1967, SUNY Brockport in 1971, and completed post-graduate work at Union College in 1985.
Irene is survived by her husband Richard J. Keyes, Jr. and their sons William E. Keyes, a senior at Carnegie Mellon University, and Brian P. Keyes a freshman at Rochester Institute of Technology. Irene was predeceased by her daughter, Jenny, in 1989.
Irene retired from the Spackenkill Union Free School District in 2004, after 33 years. She taught mathematics, was instrumental in designing and implementing the computer science curriculum, served as mathematics department coordinator, as well as coaching cheerleading and advising the Computer Club. She completed her teaching career as technology integrator at Nassau and Hagan Elementary Schools. After her retirement, she continued to share her passion for teaching by launching her business, "Play Math With Me," to instill a love of mathematics in children.
In addition to teaching, Irene actively participated in numerous area organizations. Her leadership role in the American Association of University Women enabled the local chapter to earn a 501(c)(3) designation, laying the foundation for their long-term vision to achieve gender equity. She wrote grants to create an umbrella program called "Equity For Life" to fund initiatives like the regional Girls' Conference, the "Leading To Reading" literacy project, and the "Let's Read Math" tutoring programs.
A dedicated member of the Arlington family, Irene worked tirelessly for the PTSA and the Arlington Band Boosters. She ran "Reflections," an arts contest enabling Arlington students to compete at state and national levels, and she was instrumental in re-launching the Math, Science & Technology Expo. Her work on behalf of the marching band and other music programs brought joy to the thousands who participated. Additionally, she organized the Friends of Mills Mansion annual golf tournaments at Dinsmore Golf Course, and assisted Eagle Scout candidates from Boy Scout Troup 182. In all her endeavors, Irene was committed to helping others. Irene delighted in creating arts and crafts. Her artistic ability was evidenced in her sewing, her quilting, and her painting projects. Irene loved her home decorating and her gardening, especially her colorful irises. Irene was an enthusiastic supporter of the musical endeavors of her family. Yet, her greatest love shone in the creation of a wonderful family. Rich, her two sons, and their myriad accomplishments will be her finest legacy.
As part of her eulogy, Bonnie Fulmer said:
…But one of the things I really admired about Irene was that she not only wanted to make the world a better place, but she actively sought opportunities to do concrete things to make that happen.
… She was a woman who not only volunteered when someone else evinced a need, but she was also a leader who took the initiative to identify a problem, figure out a solution, and then execute a plan to fix it and make the world a better place. Her death is more than a source of grief to all of us who love her; it is an irreplaceable loss to the whole community.
…Her untimely departure has left a huge chasm in countless lives, but thank God, we are all richer for having had Irene touch our lives and the wider world with her thoughtfulness, her dedication, her intelligence, and most of all, her love.