First Cohort of Walkways to Westminster Program Graduate
April 23, 2021
SALT LAKE CITY—Three South Salt Lake students will not only be the first in their families to graduate college this spring but also the first to graduate through the Walkways to Westminster program, a partnership of Westminster College and the City of South Salt Lake.
The graduates — Jabir Nasir, Asma Dahir, and Anisa Dahir — are residents of South Salt Lake and participated in the City’s Promise Afterschool Program beginning in sixth grade. They received mentoring from Westminster College students supporting them in their academic success, college preparation, career planning, English language learning, and life skills.
South Salt Lake Mayor Cherie Wood created the Promise initiative to provide dynamic and highly specialized community programming with a focus on academics at 14 neighborhood centers throughout the city. She says the partnership with Westminster has made higher education attainable for residents.
“Our first goal of the Promise program is that every child has the opportunity to attend and graduate from college,” said Mayor Wood. “These young South Salt Lake college graduates will be an inspiration to all the youth that follow in their footsteps. I am so proud of them.”
After Jabir and Asma enrolled at Westminster they became after-school mentors themselves.
“My students receive encouragement from someone that looks more like them, so it is now going full circle,” said Dahir. “I’m a living testimony of first-gen success and want to inspire the students that we work with.”
All three students worked jobs outside of school to support their families while balancing schoolwork, internships, leadership roles, athletics, and volunteering. On campus they found community support in Westminster’s first-generation program: Legacy Scholars.
“As a Black person from Somalia, I was anxious about going into this experience and that it wouldn’t be a supportive community,” Anisa recalled. “As students that are underrepresented, this group shared similar struggles, and I could always fall back on them. It was actually very therapeutic.”
Anisa Dahir is graduating from Westminster’s Honors College with a bachelor’s in public health. Asma Dahir is also graduating with a bachelor's in public health from Westminster’s Honors College and is going on to study at Stanford. Jabir Nasir is graduating with a degree in accounting and plans to start his career then pursue a master's degree in accounting.
“Jabir, Asma, and Anisa strengthened the Westminster community by bringing their voices, experiences, intellect and determination to all of their interactions, in and out of the classroom,” said Beth Dobkin, president of Westminster College.
Julie Tille, director of Westminster College’s Dumke Center, decided to connect the mentoring program with South Salt Lake because of the strong and diverse afterschool programs including youth from refugee families and the Utah International School.
"Working with and getting to know Asma, Anisa, and Jabir during their middle and high school years through Walkways to Westminster, and at Westminster College, has been one of the greatest joys of my life,” said Tille “It was inspiring to see them work so hard to aspire for college and support their efforts in applying to Westminster College and being accepted, while earning well-deserved scholarships. They worked so hard to navigate the college life, excel in and out of the classroom, while also giving back to the community from where they came. I am so excited to watch the many ways they will make our world a better place. It took a village to make all this happen, and I feel so lucky I was able to be involved and so proud to work at a place like Westminster College that makes college access a priority."
Walkways to Westminster has been made possible by generous funding from the Norman C. Tanner and Barbara L Tanner Charitable Support Trust; the Larry H. and Gail Miller Family; the Simmons Family; American Express; Union Pacific; and the Dumke Center for Civic Engagement, supported by a generous endowment by Katherine W. Dumke.
Westminster is a private, independent, and comprehensive college in Salt Lake City, Utah. Students experience the liberal arts blended with professional programs in an atmosphere dedicated to civic engagement. With the goal of enabling its graduates to live vibrant, just, and successful lives, Westminster provides transformational learning experiences for both undergraduate and graduate students in a truly student-centered environment. Faculty focus on teaching, learning, and developing distinctive, innovative programs, while students thrive on Westminster’s urban Sugar House campus within minutes of the Rocky Mountains.