And Now, a Word From Our Interns


(Left to Right) Hodo Jibril is a junior at UCONN. Damira Cooke is a senior at Bulkeley High School

My name is Hodo Jibril and I’m a junior at UCONN. My major is healthcare management and I want to minor in psychology.  Not only do I intern for Partnership for Strong Communities, I also work at Trinity College, I cater during the summer and work as a cashier during the school year. What keeps me going? As a child I always worked hard. If I was not selling beverages on the block, then I was walking someone’s dog or babysitting. I didn’t want to be a burden to my family. I wanted to help support them. My parents worked hard as immigrants to bring opportunity to my family.

By age 16, I had my first job at a restaurant. I remember my first check. All my blood, sweat and tears were traded for this little piece of paper. I wasn’t sure how to feel, because I felt as if I worked so hard for something that could be spent in two days. But I never stopped working; instead, I started to add on more jobs. By age 18, I was working two jobs and looking for a third. As a full-time student, it wasn’t easy. I caught myself sleeping in class and sometimes it took all the will I had to get up in the morning to attend class.  So I started to think about long-term goals.

I didn’t want to live pay check to pay check. I didn’t want to not be able to have time for myself and my community. More importantly, I wanted to earn back some of the years of my childhood that were taken away by working. That’s why I’m a business major, so I can be my own boss. I can manage my investments and buy my parents a big house. I can buy out some of my old bosses, who weren’t understanding when I had to take days off because I had an exam the next day.

I want to specialize in healthcare management because I want to run a hospital or clinic. In 2010, I spent three months in Somalia, the same time the 4-year drought began. 260,000 people died of starvation. I remember seeing people give up. I saw children so malnourished their stomachs began to swell. Families who depended on cattle saw their entire earnings die in front of them. Mothers lied to their children and said help was on its way.  World aid was delayed due to issues of getting into Somalia without being harmed. These people only received help from the earnings of pirates. I told myself that I don’t ever want to see my people starve or give up. I want to open clinics in Africa. I want to bring hope and opportunity. At the end of the day, you’ve only got hope and once that is gone, there is nothing to fight for.

My name is Damira Cooke. I am 17 years old, and I attend Bulkeley High School in Hartford.  

And I’m in love with volleyball; I first got interested when I attended my best friend’s games and helped her practice.  I never thought playing a sport could be so fun. I also kept my grades on point, which helped, a lot. Volleyball wasn’t only a sport; it stopped me from overthinking; it did more than provide me with something to do.  It saved my education. 

My goal in life was always to be successful and happy; I don’t want to be comfortable or settle for anything. In 10 years I want to be at the top of my game. My grandmother always told me actions speak louder than words. I know nothing comes easy, but with hard work and dedication anything is possible. 

In addition to volleyball, all my life I’ve had a passion for acting. People always told me I shouldn’t try to make a living at it and that I should have a Plan B, but when you’re so passionate about something I feel you should go after it no matter what. There are many famous people who are successful because they followed their dreams. They never let anyone turn them into a statistic. Your dream is your own.


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