by Joseph Jaafari
Huma Abbasi is a bit of a York College hero. A mother of five children, single-handedly supporting her family while going to school full-time and getting her Master’s on campus here at the College, Abbasi is nothing short of a jaw-dropper.
Growing up as a Muslim woman in Queens, Abbasi married almost directly out of high school and had her first child.
“After my first son I decided to go back to school,” said Abbasi. But after completing her degree and having her last child, Abbasi wanted to go back to school for her Master’s degree.
“I had the acceptance letter from York in my hand, and that’s when my husband found out that the pharmacy he was working at was going to close,” Abbasi said.
Planning to go back to school was a struggle, but her husband fully supported her decision and Abbasi figured out a way to work part-time as an occupational therapist, supporting her growing family along with working on her degree.
“I’m not going to lie, you have your nervous breakdown moments,” she said. “It’s hard because you want to spend time with your kids but you don’t have the money to just be like ‘let’s go buy some toys’.”
But beyond the struggles of working, supporting a family on a part-time salary and going to school, Abbasi maintained a perfect 4.0 GPA.
“I wanted to show, especially my daughters, that it’s possible,” she said. “It’s possible with five kids, it’s possible with struggles, it’s possible with everything.”
Graduating from the Occupational Therapy program with 170 credits and a 4.0 GPA, Abbasi has been credited by her professors and classmates for getting all of her class to graduating, without a single person dropping out.
“This program is a family,” said Associate Professor Don Auriemma. “They’re as tight-knit as can be, but there’s not too many Humas.”
“I just wouldn’t hear ‘Oh I can’t do it’,” said Abbasi. “We were going to get through this together.”
Despite her perfect GPA, impressive background and astonishing personal life, Abbasi wasn’t chosen to be the distinguished graduate for the Health and Behavioral Science School’s graduation.
“How this woman couldn’t have been chosen is beyond me,” said Auriemma who also mentioned that the entire Occupational Therapy graduating class had recommended her for the honor.
And there doesn’t seem to be any consistency between the three schools within York on how to choose the distinguished graduate. For Health and Behavioral Sciences, the school Abbasi is graduating from, Dean Lynne Clark said the student would be chosen based off a 3.75 GPA and extraordinary personal experience and background — areas in which Abbasi has proven success. But the other schools have different standards, she said.
“We’re piloting this year,” Clark said.
Despite the disappointment by faculty and students in the program, Huma is still leaving York with a positive attitude.
“I love York College,” Abbasi said. “I knew this is where I wanted to come back to. It’s the most culturally accepting of all the colleges. I never felt outcast.”