College Access and Success Educational Equity Stories

Wave-Maker Spotlight: Marwat, Studying Public Health at Cal

by Amanda Medress

Photo of Marwat smiling

A sophomore at Cal, Marwat moved from Yemen to America when she was five. Her family lived in various places—New York City, North Carolina, San Francisco—before settling in Oakland.

From an early age, her mother instilled in Marwat the importance of education. “In Yemen, my mother earned a business and administration degree. She applied to a visa raffle that only educated women could apply to,” Marwat says. “She won visas for us. My aunts applied and didn’t get in. The reason we won was my mom’s education. That shaped how we came to America. We wanted to take advantage of the education system here.”

Marwat has done just that. A diligent student, she remembers a teacher telling her to enjoy her high school years. “I loved the idea of enjoying, but education was my goal,” says Marwat. “I was sacrificing fun now, for the future. I appreciate my mom for teaching me that message from the start.”

Because of her hard work, Marwat is now studying public health at Cal. She also volunteers with Helix, a student group that seeks to increase diversity in healthcare, as program director for the network team. “I am currently undecided if I want to work in a hospital as a physician and serve patients with the best care without regarding their insurance status, citizenship, or socioeconomic status, or if I want to create polices that can ensure health resources are dispersed in areas that are most needed,” she says.

The social justice component of medicine is important to Marwat. “As a kid, I was always a fan of Malcolm X. One thing we take advantage of is the right to live a healthy life. I read about how the Black Panthers started their own clinics in Oakland. I learned how a community takes initiative. You don’t need a leader, that’s what community organizing is,” says Marwat. “I like to identify as an advocate because I aspire to go back to my local community, Oakland, or my home country, Yemen, to provide the best care that one can receive. I like to advocate for those who are in need.”

Outside of her studies, Marwat is finding time to enjoy being a college student. During her freshman year, she went to the movies for the first time in her life, and this summer she went on her first camping trip. “I’m realizing how fun it is to hang out with friends…I never did that in high school,” she says. “I realized how much I missed out on, but it was also nice to experience these things for the first time with my really close friends.”

A participant in the CAP Bay Area program, Marwat works on finding balance with her CAP College Coach, Mr. Rose. “I remember Mr. Rose and I were talking about what my focus should be for that following week,” says Marwat. “I realized that if I was the one writing all the things I needed to do, I would get overwhelmed and already start to doubt my capability. Mr. Rose, however, helped me work through the times that I had and prioritize the things I needed to keep in mind when accomplishing something. By the time the week we planned was over, I felt I had accomplished everything with very little stress.”

“I’ve had different mentors, but Mr. Rose is unique in saying ‘what do you want to do?’ Other mentors said, ‘Oh you should do this.’ He pushed for my own thoughts by questioning me. He showed me I can pave my own road, instead of saying ‘this is what you should do.’”

“I’m always thinking about the future—CAP wants you to be prepared as much as possible. They’re giving you what you need at the moment, but also building a foundation of what you need for the future,” says Marwat. “CAP taught me to believe in my capability and to not feel that resources are out of my reach. I learned that it is very possible to get A’s and B’s in college, especially in Berkeley, as long as I put in my 110%. As long as I get organized with my schedule and downtime, then things can be very much accomplished.”