Taqi Salaam

I think the word “relentless” is one of my favorite words. I know that I have had to be relentless to get where I am today, and I know that I will be relentless in finishing my nursing degree and getting a job where I can help others.

I have had to be relentless because I have faced many obstacles, but I refuse to let them get in my way. I am a first generation college student. My parents did not go to college, although they encouraged me to go. I am the only one of my family (I have three older sisters and a younger brother) to go to college. When I first started in college at SIU-Carbondale, I thought to myself if I didn't succeed, I could always go to the army or get a HVAC certificate from a community college. But when I got a 3.8 GPA my first semester, I knew that I could do it, that I could be relentless.

Another obstacle I had to face was growing up on the South Side of Chicago. I went to Englewood High School, and I know that the education that I got there could have been better, and it could have prepared me better for college than it did. But before attending Englewood, I spent one year studying abroad in Damascus, Syria. I faced some real obstacles there as the youngest person in the study abroad program, and then I had several problems while I was over there so that I pretty much had to find my own way and enroll in school by myself without many resources or much support. I was 14 years old, in a country by myself where I did not speak the language, but I was relentless and got into school and learned more than I ever could have in a classroom here in the States.

While I was in the Middle East, one thing that I realized was that people in the U.S. don't really know what poverty is. Seeing the health disparities people face in a developing country made me appreciate just how good we have it, even in what we consider poor neighborhoods, here at home. We have resources here just a few miles away that might not be available at all in a country like Syria. People there admire things that we take for granted here. I'll never call anyone here in the U.S. poor again.

The last obstacle I faced is the one that convinced me to go into nursing. I was a student athlete while I was at Englewood High School. I played football, I ran track, and I wrestled. But during my senior year playing football, I tore my Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL). During my post-op rehab, I had a Black male nurse helping me. I had always been interested in health, but I never really thought about nursing as something I could go into. Working with that nurse not only helped me to get my knee back in shape, but it also inspired me to look into nursing and to want to help other people the way that I had been helped.

Of course, part of being relentless is knowing how and when to get some help. The Urban Health Program has been a big source of help for me. When I first started in the College of Nursing, an older student was assigned to me as a “sibling” to help me adjust. Now I'm a “big sib,” helping other nursing students get adjusted. I have had a chance to network and attend national conventions and learn about all the vast opportunities out there in nursing. Now I tell my little sibs that to be successful, you have to be relentless. You have to understand that you have power, that you have resources available to you that most people in the rest of the world can't even imagine. I plan to go on to get an MS in Microbiology or perhaps become a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist. And with the Urban Health Program and my relentless attitude, I know I'll do it.

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