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Disadvantaged Status, Dental, Yemen/Michigan

From the time that I was 6 through 10, I lived in Yemen in an old house with no electricity. I read late into the night with an oil lamp. At least it was not as crowded as my home back in our Arab Ghetto of Dearborn, where 12 people were crammed into a three-bedroom house. The most challenging part of growing up, both in Yemen and Michigan, was escaping the family so that I could study at home. I always stayed as long as I could at school. My mother was overly protective and stifled the natural development of all of us.

 In Yemen, I attended the village school and received instruction in the Yemeni dialect of Arabic, the mother tongue of my family. Thus, I began school in this language, the same language that my family used at home. As a result, I had virtually no English-language instruction until the age of 10, when we returned to America. It has been a struggle to catch up. If I were to be accepted as a disadvantaged student to your program, this would represent a great triumph over adversity, an authentic rags-to-riches American story regarding language and identity.

 After we moved back to the USA from Yemen in (20xx?), now in the English world, I desperately needed help with my homework. But I could never ask my parents because they were almost entirely illiterate in English. Our life was always a desperate struggle to survive in America. When my elder brothers grew up, they both quit school to find a job. I was the only one in the family who studied, an effort that was rewarded by a scholarship for my undergraduate studies in Michigan. I now live in Louisiana, where I was able to find work after finishing college. I worked full-time almost all the way through college to pay my bills. My parents have always been interested in other things than my education, and I have long been left to provide entirely for myself.

 In the Yemeni village where I began the first four formative years of my education, there were no pharmacies, dentists, doctors, or even teachers with degrees, and almost no one but me spoke any English (which I learned mainly from the television). We were dedicated to subsistence, and our teachers did the best that they could in the absence of training and materials. I was only vaguely aware that such a thing as dentistry existed until I moved back to America at the age of 10.

 I feel strongly that I come from a doubly disadvantaged background, concerning my childhood in America and Yemen. In America, until the age of 6, and then again from 10 years old forward, I lived on the south side of Dearborn, Michigan, in an area occupied primarily by poorly educated, immigrants from the Middle East. The job losses in the auto industry helped to aggravate already desperate economic circumstances making life rather brutal and stressful for most: debts, drugs, domestic and street violence, etc.

 I might not have survived as well as I have if it were not for my “little light” from Yemen. While still a child, I fell deeply in love with one of my classmates. As soon as I finished high school, I flew back to Yemen and married her. Now, she is here with me in America, and she is my source of exceptional strength and sustenance to become a dentist.

 My wife and I both work to support ourselves; however, I have also devoted countless hours as a volunteer in dentists’ offices, observing a wide variety of procedures and gaining a much better understanding of the roles of the different members of the team that I provide with general assistance. I have also undertaken a great deal of informal study about dentistry, and I am excited at the rapid developments in techniques and materials that are occurring. My reflection makes me enormously keen to become a part of research projects.

 Unfortunately, our country, Yemen—like Pakistan and Afghanistan—is rapidly becoming an increasingly dangerous place for Americans. The more bombs—drone strikes—that fall, the more anti-American sentiment is created. And I am quickly becoming more American than Yemenis. Still, Yemen is our home, and we want to go home to Yemen after we finish dental school so that we can help our people. To Yemen, America is like God. The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away. I thank you for considering our application for disadvantaged status.

 Description of childhood residency in Dearborn, Michigan.  (250 words)

 We lived in a small brick house that was built in the 70s in Dearborn, Michigan. We were considered a low-income family. We never had any of the popular name-brand clothing so important to young people. My dad did most of the shopping at flea markets.

 Our home consisted of three bedrooms, one bathroom, and a small living room and kitchen. We are a large family with ten children; the boys were in one room and the girls in the other. The youngest of us children slept on mattresses on the floor, with the eldest two in the double bed. These rooms were only about 10 x 12 ft, including the closet.

 In addition to school, the other bright spot in my life was the park with basketball courts. My older brothers did their best to make my life miserable early on, so I grew up tough and learned to defend myself.  Although I always did my best to avoid a fight, I refrained from participating in tournaments because this is how it usually ended up. My time in the park was limited anyway by stringent parental rules.

 There are aspects of Yemeni culture of which I am not very proud. My childhood was not only marred by poverty, but also by violence. My mother beat us with a belt when we failed to return home directly from school, abruptly putting an end to whatever extra-curricular activities we might try to engage in.

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