EVERETT — Born in a Kenyan refugee camp, Amina Hussein has found her voice at Everett High School.
As a sophomore class representative, ASB vice president-electee and a recent selection for student representative to the Everett School Board, Hussein puts herself in a position to make a difference. She holds her cultural identity close, speaking a form of Swahili at home and being a member of the International Student Organization and Black Student Union at EHS.
Question: What has your Everett High School experience been like so far?
Answer: At first it was pretty rocky. Freshman year was kind of overwhelming, I wasn’t ready, but going into sophomore year I’ve learned to connect with people of all different groups and cliques.
I like talking to all sorts of people. Everett High has been like the best school, it is the best school in Everett Public Schools. I just enjoy being here, the teachers are amazing, the principals talk to me every single day, they’re really inclusive.
Q: Who are some of your largest influences?
A: My largest influence is my sister Fatuma Hussein. She came here to Everett High School. At first, in middle school she was kind of a troublemaker, but when she came to high school she started taking it more seriously. She even made a speech at graduation.
… She always supports me. She has really had my back for ever since I could remember, so she is my biggest role model.
Q: How important is your Kenyan heritage to you?
A: I take pride in where I am from. When people ask me where I am from I immediately say Kenya.
I don’t really say I am Kenyan-American, I just say I am Kenyan, because that’s how I was raised. The food I eat at home is from Kenya, what I speak is from Kenya, my friends are also Kenyan, well most of them are from Africa or that region. So just to be able to say ‘I’m Kenyan’ and just be proud of it is really big to me.
Q: Is religion important to you?
A: Yes, very. From a young age my parents told me the customs and beliefs that we choose. I am Muslim. In Islam we learn about forgiveness and being able to advocate and giving back to the poor and so for me, that is a really big part of what I do when I volunteer, when I talk at schools.
When I wear my hijab, I wear it as a symbol of who I am. At school, people know me for my hijab, so like most of the time if you want to know who Amina is you’ll probably be like, ‘Yupp, the one with the hijab’ or the one that talks a lot, whichever one comes first.
Q: What does it mean for you to be known for your hijab?
A: Muslims at our school don’t really take part in the community, they are more timid and fallen back, but just showing that you can come from any background, any religion, any skin tone, and you can still strive at Everett High School is really big for me and is kind of my motto.
Q: What is Amina’s motto?
A: My motto is, ‘No matter the background, you can always strive to be better.’
Q: Where does that come from and why is that so important to you?
A: It’s just how I was raised in a way. … Growing up, not really having much and not really being exposed to as much as other students, like with learning and my parents not knowing how to speak English. It just showed that no matter the background, you can strive, like even if your parents can’t speak English, you can.
That’s what motivates me to become better, because they came here to give me a better life, so I can at least pay them that.
Q: What are your hopes for your last two years at Everett High School?
A: Hopefully I am running for (ASB) president next year. I want to do so much in the community, and in such little time. I wasn’t expecting high school to go this fast, but hopefully I’ll do better for my community.
Speak for the students that aren’t really heard, make clubs like ISO and BSU more common in places like these. (I’m) just hoping the last years are great, amazing and wonderful.