Saturday, June 3, 2017

Cuyamaca College grad Fadya Basha proves age is just a number

Fadya Basha
More than 2,100 students are graduating from Grossmont and Cuyamaca colleges in June. Here is the story of one of them.

You’re never too old to learn. Just ask Fadya Basha, an Iraqi immigrant who, at age 74, will be the oldest graduate walking across the stage at Cuyamaca College’s June 8 Commencement. 

“If you are learning, you are growing,” said Basha, who has learned her way to an associate degree in Arabic Studies and Communication and Language Arts – with honors. “You have to always grow. You should always be learning.” 

Said her youngest son, Firas Najeeb, a dentist living in Las Vegas: “I’m really proud of her. She is a true inspiration for everybody in our family.” 

Basha said she was just looking to improve her English when she enrolled in a Cuyamaca College ESL class about seven years ago. Before too long, though, the ESL course led to other classes, including public speaking, speech and debate, and composition.  Then came courses in Arabic and mathematics, art and exercise. She began her journey in 2011, and would have graduated sooner, but she took time off on several occasions for the birth of a new grandchild. 

Basha moved to El Cajon in July of 2009 following the death of her longtime husband, who had a successful career in the banking industry. “It’s not too safe for a woman to stay alone in Iraq,” said Fadya, who added she had urged her husband to move with her to the United States long before 2009. 

“It was very bad, it was very dangerous in Iraq,” she said. “For everyone. Sometimes you walk in the street and, boom! A bomb explodes. But my husband was a bank manager. He had a good job.” 

But adjusting to life in a new country presented more than its share of challenges. Language being foremost among them. 

“I knew English very little. When I go to the doctor, I took my cousin to help me. When I go to the Social Security office, I have to take my son or a friend. I want to be independent. So I came to Cuyamaca to learn English.” 

Staying in school after her English improved was a no-brainer. “I like to learn,” Basha said. “When I come to Cuyamaca, I feel 10 years younger.” 

Before too long, she was a full-time student, often studying past midnight. “I take class seriously,” Basha said. “I am the oldest one in the class and I don’t want the teacher to ask me a question and not know the answer. I don’t want people to say, ‘she doesn’t know because she’s too old.’” 

Despite such concerns, her years at Cuyamaca College have been filled with nothing but respect. “The students treat me like anybody else. All the teachers here are very good. We get along very well.” 

“I will be sad when I graduate. I love it here too much,” Basha said.