Hawa Diallo

Broome Street Academy (BSA) is bustling with activity right now. It’s the end of the school year for all of the high school students, with what that entails – final exams, finishing papers, saying goodbye to classmates and teachers before everyone moves on to summer plans such as vacation, summer school, or summer youth employment.

It’s especially busy for our seniors, with graduation just days away on June 17. Hawa Diallo, this year’s valedictorian with a grade point average of 3.89, found a few moments to talk about her four years at BSA and her plans for the future.

Hawa started at BSA during her freshman year. She took Living Environment, her favorite class of all time, in ninth grade. It helped cement her decision to major in biology in college, followed by medical school. She credits finding her passion and the close-knit, supportive community at BSA with helping her excel in school. But her biggest influences are her parents.

“My work ethic comes from seeing my parents work hard; it’s the motivating factor in my working hard at school and becoming the valedictorian,” says Hawa.

Hawa was born in Guinea, West Africa, and moved with her family to the United States when she was six years old. It was a tough transition. She was bullied because she didn’t speak English and because she didn’t look “American”. It took her about one year to really learn English, much of it learned from watching Dora the Explorer on television.

Today she’s still somewhat shy about her English, and it affects her in little ways. That hasn’t stopped her, though. “I know I have opportunities that I wouldn’t have in Guinea,“ explains Hawa. “There are more resources, like technology and books, and school for all children. So I take advantage of everything that’s offered, and I work harder to be the best I can be. A lot of American students aren’t as motivated, because they’re used to having lots of resources and opportunities.”

Her experiences in Guinea were a factor in her decision to become a pediatrician. She wants to use her knowledge and medical degree and help underserved people in Africa and the United States. “They don’t have access to education or medicine, and many times they’re not believed when they say they’re sick. I want to give them the right to speak up and say I need help, and make sure that they’re taken seriously.”

What’s next for Hawa is college. She’s the first BSA student accepted into Spelman College, and is weighing this option and others for next fall.