Sirry Tassah, a senior at University of Minnesota Rochester, was awarded the SEED Award at University of Minnesota’s annual Equity and Diversity Breakfast this fall.
The SEED Award program honors and acknowledges diverse students who are doing outstanding work at the University of Minnesota, both in and out of the classroom. Awardees receive between $1,000 and $3,000 in scholarships for one academic year.
Sirry, whose family immigrated to Minnesota from Cameroon several decades ago, had the opportunity to return to Cameroon for a few years during her childhood but inevitably ended up back in the U.S. at the age of 5. Growing up as an immigrant in America posed its own problems for Sirry and her family, among them mental, physical and financial hardships; however, all of these things have helped shape her into the resilient person she is today.
To be nominated for the SEED award, students have to be undergraduate juniors or seniors, have a background and/or identity that is diverse and underrepresented at the U of M, and demonstrate impressive achievement and leadership in either academic performance and engagement or community outreach and activism.
Sirry was a fitting candidate.
“Sirry puts her best effort into everything she does and it shows in her academic excellence and her strong involvement with the community,” said Anna Ribikawskis, Sirry’s student success coach. “Her sustained commitment to the Global Connections Learning Community (GCC) has helped to increase cultural understanding, competency, connections and knowledge on our campus. We are so lucky to have Sirry as a part of our UMR community.”
Attending UMR has allowed Sirry to strive towards her career goals. Her courses have given her the opportunity to learn more about public health and the health disparities that take place in the U.S. and around the world.
“My courses led me to formulate my current career goals which involve working to reduce and eliminate these disparities,” said Sirry. Receiving the SEED Award has further affirmed these goals, allowing her to continue cultivating experiences that will promote diversity and create change.
Sirry’s advice for students attending UMR whose background or identity is underrepresented at UMR is to not give up.
“Sometimes it will seem like the dreams you have for yourself are so unattainable because you are disadvantaged, but that is not the case,” she says. “There are many different ways to get to your goals. And remember that encountering failures along the way is normal.”
Sirry will be graduating this spring with a Bachelor of Science in Health Sciences. She hopes to attend graduate school for Epidemiology and/or Health Policy.