Raising four children is difficult enough for most women. Doing so while obtaining an education is harder. And overcoming cultural expectations about the role of women is a whole other level of difficulty.
But LIU Pharmacy student Lilian Almaghrabi of Flatbush has taken on just that challenge -- and it has paid off. The Syrian-Jewish immigrant with children aged 16, 13, 10 and 8 was recently selected as a 2012 Women's Forum Education Fund Fellow, with a $10,000 scholarship award.
The Women's Forum is an organization that honors mature women who strive to complete an undergraduate education after a hiatus in their academic lives.
Almaghrabi, 36, is one of 12 women to be honored his year by the Women’s Forum, which cited her “superior qualifications, accomplishments and commitment to education after overcoming many of life’s adversities.”
Immigrating to the United States from Syria in her late teens, Almaghrabi married and started a family at an early age. “The expectation of every girl was to get married and have kids,” said Almaghrabi.
She explained that many women in her community remain at home once they have a family. But she had larger dreams. After the birth of her last child, she decided to break away from cultural norms and forge a career path that would allow her to serve her community.
“It’s good to be a mom, but I also wanted to prove that I can be something in life, that women can do something outside the home,” she said.
As a child, Almaghrabi was a good student who loved the sciences. With the support of her husband and her family, she enrolled in a GED program. She also volunteered at a pharmacy, helping clients translate doctor’s instructions from English to Arabic. After enrolling at a local college to study biology, she transferred to LIU Pharmacy, where she is a fourth-year student.
Part of her motivation in seeking out pharmacy as a career was the thought of her mother who had died of breast cancer.
“The stigma associated with seeking treatment for illnesses is still a major hindrance for women of my community,” said Almaghrabi, “I hope that pursuing a degree in pharmacy will allow me to impact the faulty thinking and cultural limits that prevent women from seeking treatment.”