Pursuing Passions for Health, Equity, and Advocacy as a First-Generation College Student
by Bonnie Shea
Voices of Making Waves: Meet Haifa Algabri
A community advocate, student leader, double major, and Wave-Maker, Haifa Algabri is on her way to becoming a first-generation college graduate this spring 2022.
“I wanted a better life for myself as a person, as a woman, and also as an advocate for my community,” she shared about her desire to pursue higher education at Mills College. “I wanted a college with high quality education and a tight knit community.”
“When I started going to classes at Mills, I started to appreciate learning and I solidified my interests. I can keep learning for the rest of my life,” said Haifa, who came to the U.S. from Yemen when she was four years old.
A double major to fulfill a passion for health and equity
Fascinated by how the sciences can help solve systemic issues and by the connections between different areas of study, Haifa is double majoring in biopsychology and public health and health equity.
“I like the connections of how the body works and I relate it back to social sciences, like how community and society are structured,” Haifa shared.
“Low education levels are correlated with poverty and poverty is correlated with poor health outcomes. I want to learn so I can better advocate and understand how structural racism is affecting communities of color or communities that are traditionally disadvantaged,” she said.
With hopes of attending medical school, Haifa started college as a chemistry major. In search for learning about more of the social and emotional factors of medicine, she changed to majoring in biopsychology and public health and health equity during her first year.
Haifa describes this double major as “very holistic.” She added: “Being a biopsychology major provides me with an array of classes that connect the hard sciences with the social, political, and economic pieces. The public health and health equity major then provides me with how to use this knowledge to be an advocate.”
Advocacy on campus and beyond
Alongside academics at Mills College, Haifa is very involved as a student leader. She is the founder of LiNKmills, a student group that uplifts North Koreans and their stories, and is the president of the Muslim Student Alliance Club, a coalition that advocates for unity and social justice through partnerships with local and international organizations.
“Especially as somebody who’s trying to be a doctor for everyone, I need to learn about people’s histories and become involved in their advocacy,” she shared.
In addition to being a research assistant in the genetics lab on campus, Haifa is also the co-founder of the Pre-health Track Club, which brings together and provides advocacy and resources for pre-health students. This work has included connecting Mills students with the medical school at the University of California, San Francisco through panel discussions and mentorship programs, particularly for students who are Black, Indigenous, and people of color, or BIPOC.
Haifa grew this intersectionality into her thesis, which is looking into underrepresentation and racial inequities in STEM departments compared to other departments so there is more equity and support in the future.
As Haifa gets ready to celebrate her accomplishments and her graduation this spring 2022, she shared: “I feel like the time just went by so quickly, but I’m happy that I’m graduating in four years even though I’m a double major and first-generation student.”
Among a supportive community, she credits her college coach from Making Waves Foundation’s college success program, known as CAP, in particular with providing her with moments for support, reflection, and self-exploration. “I think for me personally, having a coach served me in that I had somebody to go to instead of just letting everything build up.”
In terms of her advice for fellow Wave-Makers or other students, Haifa shared: “I think it’s different from person to person. My first year, before I became heavily involved, I always observed first. I spent a year observing Mills College and going from there. I would say take your time adjusting to college and observing your environment and absorbing everything before you take on any leadership role.”
This Voices of Making Waves storytelling series spotlights the voices and journeys of the students, alumni, teachers, coaches, and more members of our Making Waves Foundation and Making Waves Academy communities — and highlights our work in creating educational opportunities that change lives.
ABOUT MAKING WAVES FOUNDATION
With a unique focus on college attendance and graduation, Making Waves Foundation supports historically underrepresented and underserved students in pursuing their dreams. Making Waves Academy is a public charter school in Richmond, California, educating more than 1,100 students and Making Waves Foundation’s college success program, known as CAP, provides coaching, scholarships, financial literacy, and career support for more than 500 college students as well as a network for more than 500 Wave-Maker alumni.
Ten Tips to Help You Ace the Interview
April 7, 2023