My name is Azra and I am twenty-four years old. I am a Bosnian-American and was born and raised in New York City. I have two older sisters and one younger brother. I graduated with my bachelor’s degree from Queens College in 2017 and double-majored in Elementary Education and Drama/Theater. I currently work as an early learning educator for the Queens Public Library; conducting and creating STEM programming for preschool students. In my elementary years, I remember how excited I was to go to school because of the fascinating things I learned every day. I came home and retaught everything to my older sister with the blackboard my mother bought us. My passion for education was undeniable and majoring in it during college seemed only natural.
My parents fled from an ethnic cleansing and came to New York in 1992; tensions were already rising, and my parents were able to escape in the nick of time.
The strongest female influence is my mother. My parents fled from an ethnic cleansing and came to New York in 1992; tensions were already rising, and my parents were able to escape in the nick of time. One of the only fortunate stories I’ve heard about the genocide since I was young. My father was a working man and had to sustain a living to provide for his family. I would only catch a glimpse of my father when he came back tired from work only to tuck me in bed at night. The parent who I saw the most during my childhood was my mother. You can say she was the working woman for her family. She didn’t get physically paid for her endurance, but the currency is much more valuable than that. She taught me and my siblings our fundamentals. Our core values. Our rights from our wrongs. My mother taught us with her gentle, angelic heart. My white, innocent childhood was thanks to her. However, my father had a more authoritative, strict parenting style which disciplined us with fear, but my mother only disciplined with love. Both respectfully to protect us. My father shared his amount of sacrifices for his family as well; working endless hours in a day, limiting the time he saw his children and wife to provide a roof over our head and food on our plate. But my mother stayed at home with us instead of being a working mother, which is one of the sacrifices that she chose.
Mothers are naturally nurturing and protective over their children and my mother was like that as well, but she never denied us the opportunity to learn as children. As kids, she gave us the freedom to explore. The freedom to get hurt. The freedom to understand consequences of our actions. The freedom to learn. The freedom to find solutions to our problems. I remember when our family had a picnic one day and how my sisters and I were sitting and found these tiny bugs that would roll up into a ball if something touched them or how ants were so little but carried heavy sized crumbs on their backs and the next day, my mother researched and found the nearest library so we could read about those types of insects. My mother always encouraged curiosity and I am so thankful she was able to provide the experiences we had with love and understanding.
My older sister, Dalila was my biggest female influence during my adolescence. At this current time, she graduated with her masters at USC in special education and is an English Literature high school teacher; she aspires to be a university professor one day. She is three years older than me and even when we were toddlers, I followed everything she did. I was much closer to her than any of my other siblings. My eldest sister is seven years older and was already a teenager when I was only in elementary school so naturally, I connected with Dalila. She was outspoken and a natural born leader and anything she wanted, she worked for it. She’d save up, she’d plan, she’d write out a whole mood board for her ideas. She was an individual who knew how to get things organized and done. My love for education was encouraged from her; she always listened to my “teachings” when we came back from school. She is a beacon of success and motivation and I can rely on her to listen and respond with the wisdom beyond her years.
My love for education was encouraged from her; she always listened to my “teachings” when we came back from school.
I went to a small Islamic school so I always remember being so proud when other students would call me “Dalila’s sister” because I knew she was the one of the cultured, well-spoken students in her grade. I remember as kids we would create journals together and that was something that stuck with me until this day. However, one day in middle school I remember journaling something during recess and some girls asked me how I possibly had the time to sit and write pages and pages and all I remember was being hurt by that. I didn’t exactly understand why but I knew it was something I loved doing. It was something they all constantly used to say to me, and I figured there must be something more valuable to do than journaling. I was an honor roll student, been active in clubs, had friends but why was journaling a waste of time? When we came back home from school, I told Dalila about this because she journaled too and wondered if any of the girls asked her about that. She said they did, and she gave them one reply and that was the end of it. Curious to know, I asked her what she said to them and she responded, “This was my way of investing in myself, what do you do with your time?” Until this day, that remarkable ideology has stuck with me. Why give in to the fear of what other people’s concepts should be about you when you should start believing in the idea that you will succeed. That is definitely what I try to incorporate in some of my captions on social media. The self-reflection bit, something that others can relate to. An ode of what I have learned recently. I like to evoke mindfulness, strengthen emotional intelligence, improve on communication skills. This is all of what I have learned from the influence my big sister had on me.
My mom and Dalila blessed me with what it means to have a loving heart, to be a leader, to self-reflect, to be emotionally intellectual.
Both of these extraordinary women shaped me into who I am today. My intellectual and mental DNA was redesigned to be phenomenal. Nothing but greatness because I heard that affirmation when I was young. My parents escaped from a country where you were being hunted and tracked down for the beliefs that you had. The nation that you were born in. The language that you spoke. My people were being killed for the mere fact that they were Bosnian but even a higher chance of being Muslim. There is resilience and strength in my blood. I expect nothing but high energy and love from myself. I chose conscientiously to learn from my mistakes and grow from them. My mom and Dalila blessed me with what it means to have a loving heart, to be a leader, to self-reflect, to be emotionally intellectual. All necessary. All golden characteristics because of them.